By Ivor Takor
The public sector pension crisis, especially in some states of the federation, has further exposed the weakness of Nigeria’s democracy, and how it has foisted on the citizens a predatory political ruling class that is irresponsible, non-transparent, unaccountable, extremely corrupt and lacks core human values of honesty, integrity, respect for hard work, respect for human life and dignity, discipline, decency and kindness.
The presence of these core values in a nation, is what tends to hold people together, giving them a sense of belonging or ownership and loyalty that can also be translated as nationalism or patriotism.
For those who may wish to exercise their right to disagree with us, they may also want to tell us if it is not greed, avarice, self-centeredness, abuse of office, lack of core human values, what we should call the attitude of some former and serving state governors, who are principal members of this class in respect of the pension crisis in their state.
Some of the immediate past governors who failed in eight years to enact laws to take care of pensions of employees of states and local governments they superintended over, were able to within a period of two days, through subversive generosities extended to members of their ever “cooperative” Houses of Assembly, were able to protect for themselves, bloated “pension,” allowances, which include houses, bullet-proof vehicles that are replaceable every four years, domestic and security aides and provisions for medical tourism, which they smuggled into the statutes books of the states in the name of pension rights for political office holders or whatever names so-called.
It is difficult to understand why a governor who served a state for eight years or less, should believe that his services were more meritorious, deserving a better rest after “labour” than other employees of the same state and local governments, who had put in between 20 and 35 years of service.
The actions of these former governors amount to injustice, abuse of office, extreme corruption and abuse of the fundamental human rights of states and local government workers and a breach of the employment agreements the workers entered into with their employers, who are state governments.
In some states, the governors have become emperors, despotic, tyrants and demigods. These behavioural traits, only go to corroborate the saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is therefore for this reason that the principle of separation of power, is made a cornerstone of any democratic system.
The principle of separation of power helps to prevent abuse of power, resist injustice and tyranny. It maintains a system of checks and balance in governance.
Separation of power is included in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. In terms of institutions, it can be said that there is separation of power in Nigeria’s democracy because we have the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government.
However, in the day-to-day administration of the country, separation of power remains a mirage in most states as the principle is practised only in breach, and the bloating of the cost of administering the country. The democratic credentials of most governors in the area of separation of power is circumspect. They exercise authoritarian and choking control over states” houses of assembly, which they have turned into units of their offices.
Speakers of State Houses of Assembly are installed and removed at the pleasure of governors. We wait to see what members of State Houses of Assembly will do with the freedom granted them from the choking grips of governors, by the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari to 4th Alteration Act No. 4, which amended Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, to provide for direct funding of States’ Houses of Assembly ‘directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state.
The painful challenge facing the country today therefore is that we have a predatory political ruling class that has eroded any value system we ever had as a nation. They have refused to be accountable and in the absence of a practical system of separation of power, there is no institution that can call them to order.
To be continued…
Ivor Takor, mni Esq, – Executive Director, Centre for Pension Right Advocacy.