By Chief EDWIN CLARK
ON Friday, June 19, 2020, the nation’s number two citizen, Prof. YemiOsinbajo, responding to a statement made by former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, and the immediate past Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, during a Webinar organised by the Emmanuel Chapel on the theme: Economic Stability beyond COVID-19 said: “There is no question that we are dealing with large and expensive government, but as you know, given the current constitutional structure, those who would have to vote to reduce (the size of) government, especially to become part-time legislators, are the very legislators themselves.
“So, you can imagine that we may not get very much traction if they are asked to vote themselves, as it were, out of their relatively decent circumstances. So, I think there is need for a national debate on this question and there is need for us to ensure that we are not wasting the kind of resources that we ought to use for development on overheads. At the moment, our overheads are over 70 per cent of revenues, so there is no question at all that we must reduce the size of government….”
I cannot agree more with Vice President YemiOsinbajo. No nation can survive when “over 70 per cent” of its revenue is spent on overheads, spent on recurrent expenditures. A chunk of the nation’s borrowing is used to service recurrent expenditure and not capital expenditure. How do you repay the loan? We must, as a matter of urgency, drastically cut the cost of governance in the country.
This also brings to mind the recent case where the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, assented to a Bill to repeal the payment of pensions and gratuities to former governors of the State, their deputies, State Assembly speakers and their deputies. This is quite commendable and, is a case of accepting the message even if the messenger is not accepted.
It is worth noting that prior to when Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida as Military President amended the Pension Law to include that public servants who have worked for 10 years, can apply for voluntary retirement and be entitle to full retirement benefits, public servants could only retire after they had worked for 35 years or have attained 60 years of age. It is worth mentioning that this law does not apply to political officeholders.
Even at that, the longest number of years a governor and his deputy can stay in office by the country’s Constitution as it is today is eight years. And this is even less than the 10 years which the former Military President, Gen. Babangida amended the law to. So for some State governors to make laws to pay life pension to former governors which will include themselves is immoral, self-serving and unconstitutional.
There is an ongoing controversy between the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle and his predecessor, Abdulaziz Yari over payment of pension to the former governor. Governor Matawale stated that former Governor Yari was asking to be paid the sum of N10 million monthly as pension totaling N120 million annually.
In addition, he said that former Governor Yari will be getting two vehicles to be bought for him by the State Government and replaceable every four years, a five-bedroom house in any location of choice in any part of the country, medical treatment for him and his immediate family and a 30-day vacation within and outside the country. He added that the former Governor “had paid to himself the sum of N300 million.”
Meanwhile, Governor Matawalle said he met “pension liabilities of local government workers, primary school teachers and state civil servants amounting to about N10 billion.” The case of Kwara State is even more worrisome.
The State has a law in place which states that past governors and deputy governors of the State “shall be entitled for pension for life at the rate equivalent to the annual basic salary of the incumbent and other benefits as provided by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
The pension shall include: furnished five-bedroom duplex, 300 per cent for furniture replaceable every four fours; free medical treatment for governor and deputy governor and their immediate families; car maintenance; drivers (pensionable); house maintenance; and two cars for the governor in addition to one pilot car to be replaced every three years”.
And to think that most of these governors end up at the Senate as senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and will probably remain there for life, since one can go to the Legislative Houses over and over again, earning additional jumbo pay, is cruel. Some of them have used the public funds to build economic and political empires for themselves. They enthrone and dethrone political officers at their whims and caprices. State owned properties have been converted to their personal ownership.
A former Lagos State governor converted the state’s Liaison Office in Abuja to his private guest house. His residence in Ikoyi used to be government quarters for state workers, but he converted it to his personal property after renovating it with State government money.
To be concluded
Chief Clark, nationalist and prominent South-South leader, wrote from Abuja.