…SERAP, CACOL, CPRA, others hail move, call for refund
…How states spent N37.367bn on 47 ex-govs, deputies
By Clifford Ndujihe, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Henry Ojelu & Rosemary Onuoha
FORMER Governors and deputy governors of Lagos including Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, and Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode will lose their hefty pensions and emoluments, if Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s new governance cost-cutting offensive yields result.
Yesterday, Governor Sanwo-Olu announced plans to repeal the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors, deputies and categories of public workers.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed this while presenting the Year 2021 budget proposals of N1.155 trillion tagged: ‘The Budget of Rekindled Hope’ to members of the State House of Assembly for consideration and approval.
The event had in attendance Deputy Governor Femi Hamzat; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; Chief Judge of Lagos, Justice Kazeem Alogba; Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mrs Folashade Jaji; Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Tayo Ayinde; members of the state executive council, Members of the Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC, of the All Progressives Congress, APC; and Chairman of APC in Lagos, Alhaji Tunde Balogun among others.
According to the governor, the abolishment of pension for former governors and deputies will reduce the cost of governance in the state.
He said: “Mr. Speaker and members of the House, in light of keeping the costs of governance low and to signal selflessness in public service, we will be sending a draft executive bill to the House imminently for the repeal of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies.
“It is our firm belief that with dwindling revenues and the appurtenant inflationary growth rates that we need to come up with innovative ways of keeping the costs of governance at a minimum while engendering a spirit of selflessness in public service.”
The governor said the bill will be sent to the Lagos State House of Assembly to formally repeal the law.
Lagos pension law
Section 2 of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law No 11 Official Gazette of 2007 provides that former governors and their deputies shall be entitled to 100 per cent of the basic salary of the incumbent governor (N7.7million per annum), and free health care for them and their immediate family members.
The law provides for one residential house each for the ex-governor and his deputy at any location of their choice in Lagos State and one residential house in the Federal Capital Territory for the governor who served two consecutive terms estimated to cost between N500 million and N700 million. The law further provides for six new cars for a former governor (four for the deputy) which must be replaced every three years.
Former governors of the state are also entitled to furniture allowance – 300 percent of annual basic salary (N23.3million); house maintenance allowance – 10 percent of annual basic salary (N778,296); utility allowance – 20 percent of annual basic salary (N1.5million), and car maintenance allowance – 30 percent of the annual basic salary (N2.3million). There is also an entertainment allowance, 10 percent of the annual basic salary (N778, 296); and a personal assistant who will earn 25 percent of the governor’s annual basic salary (N1.9 million).
A former governor is also entitled to eight policemen and two Department of State Services, DSS, operatives for life while his deputy is entitled to two police, one each for house and personal security.
SERAP hails move
In response to Sanwo-Olu’s move, deputy director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, said it is a welcome development because “it complies with the judgement by Justice Oguntoyinbo, Federal High Court, Lagos in SERAP v. AGF, ordering the Nigerian Government to recover pensions collected by ex-governors and their deputies and to challenge the legality of pension laws in several states.”
SERAP, therefore, urged the AGF Abubakar Malami, SAN to immediately fulfil his promise to enforce the judgement in suit number FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 to recover pensions already collected, and challenge the legality of all life pension laws in several states across the country.
However, Oluwadare said despite SERAP sending the list, Mr Malami has not taken steps to enforce the judgement.
While sending the list to Mr. Malami, SERAP had said: “We welcome your request for the full list of former governors and ministers. Any further delay in the enforcement of the judgement will continue to undermine the authority and integrity of the Nigerian judiciary. “Nigerians cannot wait for you to take legal action to scrap states’ pension laws and fully recover the public funds collected. Immediate obedience to the judgement will be a victory for the rule, and provide an impetus for the government’s anti-corruption fight.
“It will also be a rare piece of good news for the people of Nigeria as it will send a powerful message to former governors and ministers that have collected and/or collecting double pay that they will be held to account for their actions and mark the end of state-level impunity.”
It’s immoral for ex-govs, deputies to collect pensions – CPRA
In like manner, the Director, Centre for Pension Right Advocacy, CPRA, Mr. Ivor Takor said it is immoral for former governors and deputy governors to be collecting pension, and urged Governor Sanwo-Olu to show more seriousness in repealing the pension law.
Speaking to Vanguard, Takor said: “The Lagos State pension is established by law. So if Governor Sanwo-Olu really wants to repeal it, he should send a bill to the state assembly to abrogate that law. He cannot be saying it in a budget speech because a budget speech cannot nullify a law. If he is sincere about doing it, he should send a bill to the state assembly.”
While stressing that it is immoral for former governors and deputy governors to be collecting pension, Takor said: “The move is the right step in the right direction. Former governors and deputy governors only served as political office holders, so they are not supposed to be drawing pension. It is not a constitutional matter. They worked for eight years and if they want to take a severance package they should take one severance package and go away.
“There is even a court ruling on the matter which in effect makes those states that are still paying pension to former governors and deputies illegal. That court ruling has not been upturned and if there is a high court ruling on a matter, it stands.
“Most of those governors did not even put in place good pension for their workers who served for 35 years. And some of the governors just served eight years and they are drawing pension.”
Sanwo-Olu has shown selflessness in service – CACOL
Also, Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, hailed Sanwo-Olu’s move as a welcome development but long overdue.
His words: “During the administration of Mr. Babatunde Fashola when the bill was processed, we spoke against it that it was unfair to other civil servants who spent 30 to 35 years in service without receiving a quarter of such benefits.
“They (former governors) have already enjoyed over bloated allowances while in office. It is unthinkable for lawmakers, who are supposed to be representatives of the people, to accord such benefits in the first place, to former governors and deputies.
“If Sanwo-Olu removes it, it means he is a selfless leader. Initially, I was indifferent whether to support his administration or not but now I think we should support him, he has shown selflessness in service.
“The money the government will be saving is capable of creating jobs for over 100 people for 30 years. What Sanwo-Olu has done is a progressive move. “Though, it is not the fault of the beneficiaries it is the fault of the lawmakers, they should be able to return some of those benefits, such as houses, vehicles, allowances, and others to the coffers of government.”
How states spent N37.367bn on pensions of 47 ex-govs, deputies
Indeed, pension and emoluments of former governors are exerting pressure on national development as they drain billions of naira every year from development funds of the states.
Over N37.367 billion, according to Vanguard findings, was expended 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.
Payment of pension to former governors over a four year cycle is highest in Bauchi, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Lagos States with former governors drawing N23.18 billion, N2.795 billion, N2. 043 billion, and N1.606 billion respectively over four years. The payments are in many cases, aside provisions for medical expenses for the former chief executives, which run into hundreds of millions per former governor or deputy in many cases.
Pension payment, other entitlements
Pension and other entitlements drawn by the governors are irrespective of the prescription of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC providing 300 per cent severance pay for the governors as stated in the Certain Political Office Holders and Judicial Officers Remuneration Act. Under that act, former governors like lawmakers are entitled to 300 per cent of their basic salary of N2, 223,705 amounting to N6, 671, 115 as severance pay.
Most of the provisions stipulate the provision of vehicles renewable every three to four years, accommodation at the state capital and sometimes in Abuja, 30 days paid for holiday outside the country and free medical treatment for the former governors and their immediate family members. However, a few other states including Akwa Ibom, Yobe, Gombe Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Kwara and Sokoto have forked up outlandish cash transfers to the former governors. The humongous payouts are sometimes styled as medical allowance and have been the butt of many controversies.
The Sokoto State pension law provides for N200 million every four years for former governors, and with three former governors, the state would have to cough out N600 million every four years to transfer to the former governors. Another N180 million is set out for payment to former deputy governors.
Gombe was the first to pay out benefits in hundreds of millions when it paid N900 million to its two living former governors – Abubakar Hashidu and Senator Danjuma Goje, under the state pension law for former governors, which provides N300 million per term for each of the two governors.
The version of the Yobe State pension law, signed into law in early 2007 by former governor, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, gives former governors pension for life. Each former governor/ deputy receive 200 million and 150 million respectively, two vehicles replaceable every four years, two drivers, free medical for the former governors/ deputies and their immediate families in Nigeria or abroad. Senator Abba Ibrahim, who served three different times as governor of the state is the only one enjoying the entitlement being the only former governor alive. The other persons, who shared the governor’s office with him are the incumbent and the late Senator Mamman Ali who died in office.
Besides the humongous cash payments, some states including Cross River, Kwara, Lagos, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Kano, Zamfara and Sokoto states have also recommended the payment of the basic salaries of the incumbent governors as yearly pension payments to their former governors.
The version of the governors’ pension law in Kwara State which came into effect in 2010 states that the former governor shall be entitled to two cars and a security car, replaceable every three years, a well-furnished 5-bedroom duplex, furniture allowance of 300 per cent of his salary; five personal staff, three SSS, free medical care for the governor and the deputy, 30 percent of salary for car maintenance, 20 per cent for utility, 10 percent for entertainment, 10 per cent for house maintenance.