…as SERAP moves to force states to reveal pay
…I just received my first pay since 1983 —Jim Nwobodo
…EFCC ordered stoppage of my pension — Lamido
…RMFAC left us at the mercy of lawmakers — Chime
…I’ve not been paid since leaving office —ex-Ekiti Deputy Gov
…N37.367bn spent on 47 erstwhile govs—Report
By Charles Kumolu, Denis Agbo, Aliyu Dangida&Rotimi Ojomoyela
Following a court judgement urging the Attorney General of Federation, AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to ensure the abolishment of pensions to former governors, Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged the AGF to prevail on agencies of affected states to reveal what the past chief executives earn.
The organisation also said it will write the AGF, after some working days, to ask him to implement the court order which requires former governors who served in the National Assembly and as ministers in the federal cabinet, and, in the process earned double pay, to refund what they got as pensions from their states’ coffers.
Executive Director of SERAP, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said the AGF should work with state Accountant Generals in determining what the former leaders get and avoid selective application of justice.
Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of Federal High Court, Lagos, had ordered the recovery of the pensions.
This followed an application for an order of mandamus in suit number FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 brought by SERAP.
Meanwhile, some former governors told Sunday Vanguard that their pension is not as big as many think.
It was even gathered that, in some cases, some incumbent governors use the payment of pension as a political tool against predecessors who may not be on the same page with them.
However, the SERAP boss said the nullification of the pension laws of 22 states is an urgent task to be undertaken by the AGF.
His words: “We cannot talk about compliance with the judgement now. What we intend to do in the next two or three working days is to write the Attorney General of the Federation asking him to comply with the judgement.
“We will make a certified true copy of the judgement to the Attorney General telling him that the court said he must comply with the judgement. It is now left for the Attorney General to decide what he would do about the judgment. We can’t say he would not comply, that would be pre-emptive.
“Let me put what the judge said in proper perspective. He said all those state laws must be invalidated by an action to be taken by the Attorney General of the Federation. The starting point is for the Attorney General to nullify those laws. It is when those laws are nullified that there can be no argument by those affected.
State Accountant Generals
“They, former governors, will no longer argue that it was the law that gave them the right to collect the money. On the amount that has so far been collected by the former governors, the Attorney General is in a better position to confirm from the various agencies of government. It is not for some of the former governors to say that they didn’t collect.
“The Accountant Generals of the various states will tell us whether the hands of those denying are clean or not. Records from government sources would tell us whether they collected money or not. Let the Attorney General of Federation take steps to nullify those pension laws across the states without selective application of justice.”
Speaking on the matter, a former governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime, told Sunday Vanguard that payment of pension to ex-governors is constitutional.
He submitted that state lawmakers derived the powers to prescribe pensions from the Constitution, arguing that the framers of Nigeria’s Constitution ought not to have left it in the hands of lawmakers.
Besides, Chime said pension packages for governors could reduce the tendency to steal while in office.
Pension could reduce tendency to steal —Chime
His words: “Ex-governors’ pension is backed by the Constitution. Whoever drafted the Constitution in their wisdom authorised the Houses of Assembly to make laws instituting ex-governors’ pension.
“It is the duty of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Committee, RMFAC, to prescribe salaries and allowances for public officers, but for pension, the Constitution makes direct provision for the President and Vice President.
“It specifically authorises states’ Houses of Assembly to make similar laws for their governors. If anybody is going to abolish it, such a person has to start with the Constitution. You must amend the Constitution to remove that power from the Houses of Assembly
“But the thing is that the Houses of Assembly in various states, because of the interest of whoever is the incumbent, make lavish provisions. For me, the provision they made for governors is on the high side.
‘Paying billions is outrageous’
“I can understand reasons for making provision for the governor to take care of his immediate needs. First, he should be on life pension. If a governor manages the affairs of a state for four or eight years and leaves office without pension, he is being encouraged to steal.
“If you are not assuring him that government will take care of him for life, that tendency to steal will be there. I am not saying it will stop anybody who wants to steal but if you remove it completely, even those who are not inclined to steal may want to steal so that they can provide their pension for life.
“But if you have that provision in the law, which doesn’t have to be too much, the tendency to steal may not be there. At least, it should be prescribed that when a governor leaves, all those things that RMFAC provided should be given to him. But for some states to pay billions is outrageous and doesn’t make sense.
‘Abuja houses for ex-govs are unnecessary’
“I believe that ex-governors should be taken care of because I was a governor and I know what it entailed to be in Government House. You can’t see a former governor going back to his former lifestyle after leaving the Government House.
“In as much as I am trying to do that, it is still not possible. You have security and domestic staff. I don’t think we’re there yet where a governor will leave office and go and reside in a one-bedroom apartment.
“Ex-Presidents of United States are on life pension but they don’t have to abuse it. The only thing I think is inappropriate is the way our Constitution makes provision for President and Vice President alone.
“The Constitution could have gone ahead to make uniform provision for all the governors irrespective of their states because the ex-governors are now at the mercy of the Houses of Assembly.
“Under RMFAC, while in office they are supposed to earn the same amount, why should there be disparity when they leave office? It doesn’t make sense.
Former governors, deputies
“The writers of the Constitution should have gone ahead to authorise RMFAC to make provisions for former governors when they retire. If they tell you what they pay in some states, you will marvel.
“In some states, the state governments must build houses for their former governors in Abuja and their home states. Why must a former governor live in Abuja? You can give him a house in his home state, not Abuja. I don’t agree with everything. Certain basic provisions should be made for former governors and former deputy governors.”
I received my first pension this year —Jim Nwobodo
On his part, former Governor Jim Nwobodo of old Anambra State, who left office in 1983, lamented that he only received his first pension this year.
He said: “I am happy you are asking me because I left office in 1983 and I am telling you that I never received a dime as pension until this year. No government paid me until this year and what is the worth?
“Maybe the previous governors made their pensions but for me, I did not receive any pension until this year. When I was in the Senate, I didn’t receive anything.’’
Also, former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State said he was enjoying his monthly pension of N667, 000 until the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, ordered stoppage of payment last year.
Lamido said this in an interview monitored by Sunday Vanguard on BBC Hausa last Thursday.
Also contacted, a former Deputy Governor of the state, Ahmed Mahmud Gumel, said he receives N440, 000 monthly.
A former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Prof Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, told this newspaper that although Ekiti has a pension law for ex-governors and their deputies, he has not been paid since leaving office.
He said: “I am not receiving any pension and I am not working anywhere. Though it is in the law, I have not been receiving anything since I left office.
“The only thing they did for us when we were leaving last year was the payment of exit benefits. There was a four-bedroom flat which was later monetised. They gave me a fairly used Hilux and one SUV.
“They give SUV to former governors and I think former Governor Niyi Adebayo collected. Segun Oni rejected his and I don’t think that gesture was extended to Dr. Kayode Fayemi.”
300 percent severance payment
The RMAFC prescribes 300 percent severance payment for governors as stated in the Certain Political Office Holders and Judicial Officers Remuneration Act.
Under the Act, former governors, like lawmakers, are entitled to 300 percent of their basic salary of N2, 223,705 amounting to N6,671,115 as severance pay.
Irrespective of this, some state legislators enacted laws creating what is regarded as outrageous pension benefits and severance packages for former governors and their deputies.
States with pension laws include Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Edo, Delta, Kano, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Niger, Kogi, Zamfara and Katsina.
The payment of pension to the leaders, when many states hardly fulfil their obligations to pensioners, exerts pressure on the states’ finances.
An investigative report by this newspaper in 2017 revealed that N37. 367 billion had been spent on “servicing 47 former governors from 21 of the nation’s states in pension payments and provision of houses, staff and motor vehicles replaceable between three and four years.”
The report which captured 25 states remains a reference point when discussing the pension of former state governors.
The state-by-state analysis findings showed how the payments in many cases, besides provisions for medical expenses for the former chief executives, run into hundreds of millions per former governor.