Lawyers: Life pension for govs unconstitutional
AKEEM NAFIU writes that the wave of approvals of pension for former governors and their deputies by various Houses of Assembly across the country amidst poverty in the land is a reflection of the nation’s nascent democratic system
Former state executives and their deputies in many states across the country have been feeding fats on their states’ resources in the name of life pensions approved by the various Houses of Assembly.
Funds running into several billions of naira were pocketed by these set of individuals annually in the name of pensions at a time civil servants and pensioners were not paid their entitlements for months and years.
Despite receiving over N1.8 trillion as bailout funds so far from the Federal Government, many states in the country were still reported to have found it difficult to settle workers’ salaries and pension liabilities.
A data from BudgtIT, a civic organisation concerned with participatory governance, indicated that as at October 2018, about 15 states across the country are defaulting in salary payments for as high as 15 months.
Ironically, there was no report about governors in these states defaulting at anytime in the payment of fat pensions and entitlements to their predecessors.
It is also worthy of note that the pension benefits for these former state chief executives are in addition to what was provided for them in the Certain Political Office Holders and Judicial Officers Remuneration Act, backed by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) which prescribes 300 percent severance for governors.
Aside the 300 percent severance package, the Act also makes the following provisions for the state executives:
*Brand new cars renewable every three to four years.
*Accommodation at the State capital and sometimes in Abuja;
*30-day-paid holiday outside the country and free medical treatment for the former governors and their immediate family members.
Outrageous pensions of some state executives
The Lagos Pension Law known as Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law approved by former Governor Bola Tinubu in 2007, provides for the following benefits for life:
Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja. Six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual salary to be paid every two years, and close to N2.5 million as pension (about N30 million pension annually). He will also enjoy security detail, free medicals including for his immediate families. Other benefits include 10 percent house maintenance, 30 percent car maintenance, 10 percent entertainment, 20 percent utility, and several domestic staff.
In Rivers, the law provides 100 percent of annual basic salaries for ex-governor and deputy, one residential house for former governor “anywhere of his choice in Nigeria”; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy, three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years. His furniture is 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years en bloc. House maintenance is 10 percent of annual basic salary.
In Akwa Ibom, the law provides for N200 million annual pay to ex-governors and deputies. He enjoys a pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor/deputy governor respectively.
A new official car and a utility vehicle every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month and N2.5 million for the deputy governor. There is also a free medical services for governor and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100 million for the governor per annum and N50 million for the deputy governor.
Also, there is a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom and allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor. He takes a furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years in addition to severance gratuity.
The Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law signed into law in 2007 provides for 100 percent of annual basic salaries for former governor and deputy. Furnished and equipped office, as well as a six-bedroom house; “well-furnished” four-bedroom for deputy, plus an office.
The former governor is also entitled to free medical treatment along with his immediate families within and outside Nigeria, where necessary. It is same for deputy.
Two drivers are also for former governor and a driver for his deputy; and personal staff below the rank of a Principal Administrative Officer and a PA not below grade level 10. There is also a provision for a 30- day vacation within and outside Nigeria.
In Kwara, the pension law signed in 2010 gives a former governor two cars and a security car, replaceable every three years, a “well-furnished 5-bedroom duplex,” furniture allowance of 300 percent 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 percent for utility, 10 percent for entertainment and 10 percent for house maintenance.
The Zamfara version of the law, signed in 2006, gives former governors pension for life, two personal staff, two vehicles replaceable every four years, two drivers, free medical for the former governors and deputies and their immediate families in Nigeria or abroad. The law also gives the former governors a four-bedroom house in Zamfara and an office, free telephone and 30 days paid vacation outside Nigeria.
In Sokoto, former governors and deputy governors are to receive N200 million and N180 million respectively being monetisation for other entitlements which include domestic aides, residence and vehicles that could be renewed after every four years.
Section 2 (2) of the Sokoto State Grant of Pension (governor and deputy governor) Law, 2013 states that “The total annual pension to be paid to the governor and deputy governor, shall be at a rate equivalent to the annual total salary of the incumbent governor or deputy governor of the state respectively.”
In Gombe, the Executive Pension Law and other Matters Connected therewith, 2008, stipulates that a former governor shall be provided with a Personal Assistant not less than GL 10, two vehicles, to be replaced every four years, two drivers, free medical treatment for the former governor and his immediate family within Nigeria or abroad. 30 days annual vacation outside Nigeria with 30 days estacode with travel expense allowance for himself and wife, a furnished befitting accommodation in any part of the state as well as one direct telephone line internet facilities. The former governor also pockets N200 million as severance allowance while deputy governors go with N100 milion.
In Osun State, the law guiding the payment of pensions to former governors and their deputies is cited as the Pension (Governor and Deputy Governor) Law 2001. The law stipulates that former governors and former deputy governors shall be entitled to pension at the rate equivalent to the incumbent office holder.
Provision of Pension Rights of the Executive Governor and Deputy of Delta State, 2005 is the law guiding the provision of pension for former governors and deputy governors of Delta State.
The former governors and their deputies are entitled to one duplex in any city of their choice within Nigeria, One jeep and a backup car replaceable every two years, an office with four staff, two security personnel and a monthly salary among others.
The Oyo State Pension Law 2004 provides that a former governor and his deputy are to collect pension as long as they live. The law stipulates that the pension for life will be paid at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent Governor or Deputy Governor of the state.
The breakdown of the pension and allowances includes; furniture Allowance which is put at 300 percent of the annual basic salary, leave allowance is 10 percent of annual basic salary while severance allowance will be 300 per cent of the annual basic salary.
State legislators’ quest for life pension
Some states Houses of Assembly like the Executive arm are also in the quest for life pensions for their members.
Of late, the Kano State House of Assembly has passed a Bill seeking life pension for its principal officers into law.
The Bill tagged, the ‘Pensions Rights of Speaker and Deputy Law 2019’, passed on 9th May, 2019, will enable the two presiding officers earn life pension after leaving the office.
The new law provides that: “There shall be paid pension to person who held office as Speaker and Deputy Speaker equal to the emoluments of a serving Speaker and deputy speaker, provided that either the Speaker or the Deputy do not hold any paid elective or selective appointment”.
The Speaker and Deputy will also enjoy foreign medical trips and brand new vehicles every four years. The law is awaiting the assent of Governor Ganduje.
Similar attempt by lawmakers in Bayelsa State was however truncated after Governor Seriake Dickson declined to assent to a life pension Bill passed by them.
The Bill sponsored by the leader of the House, Peter Akpe, which was passed on 24th April, 2019, on the floor of the House, approved N500,000 post-service monthly pension to the speakers of the assembly, while deputy speakers will receive N200,000. Members are to get N100,000.
The Bill specifically provided that former lawmakers, including persons of Bayelsa origin who served in the old Rivers State, would enjoy life pensions for their services in the state as applicable to former presidents, vice-presidents, governors and deputy governors across the country.
However, to the dismay of the lawmakers, Governor Seriake Dickson withheld his assent to the Bill for being inconsistent with Section 124 of the Constitution.
The governor added that he was guided in his decision by the principle that government should not be for a select class of the privileged in the society.
In Kwara State, the legislators were even more daring as they allegedly shared out about N400 million alongside some members of the State Executive Council as severance package when their tenure is yet to run out. This is coming at a time the state owes civil servants about three months’ salary.
Acting on a petition, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had questioned the Secretary to the State Government, Sola Isiaka Gold and the Clerk of the State House of Assembly, Kperogi Halimat Jummai, over the alleged payment.
Kperogi was reported to have confirmed that the lawmakers have received their severance gratuity and that the payment was approved by the State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed.
A govt-elect pledge
Governor-elect of Kwara State, Mr. Abdulrahman Abdulrazak, has vowed to repeal the law granting jumbo pensions to former governors and deputies in the state.
This was one of his campaign promises in the run-off to the last governorship election in the state.
Addressing party supporters at a campaign rally in Omu-Aran, Irepodun Local Government Area, Abdulrazak noted that payment of pension to former political office holders was detrimental to the socio-economic development of the state.
“We need to change some terrible laws. We’ll repeal that obnoxious pension law when we get to office.
“It’s a privilege to become a governor of a state. It is dubious for anyone to become governor and then earn a pension more than the people who served the state for their entire lives.
“We cannot take that any more. But we need enough lawmakers to push through the repeal of the offensive law,” he said.
Some senior lawyers have also described the action of state Houses of Assembly in passing life pension laws for governors and their deputies as an illegal act.
The lawyers while speaking over the issue at the weekend faulted the action saying it is unconstitutional.
In his comment, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Mike Ahamba, noted that political office holders are not among the categories of people recognised by the Constitution as being entitled to pension.
He said: “If you check the definition of public officer, it does not include political office holders like president, vice-president, governors, their deputies and members of the House of Assembly.
“Also, if you check the Pensions Act, it is for public officers. So, what these political office holders are doing by allocating pensions to themselves is against the Constitution. Neither the National Assembly nor the State Houses of Assembly is empowered by the Constitution to give extra powers to themselves.
“The president, vice-president, governors and other political office holders are public officers for the purpose of code of conduct only. That is for the purpose of declaring their assets and nothing nothing more.
Nigerians should rise up to resist these illegal moves. Taxpayers’ money should be spent judiciously and not to pay pension certain individuals who have only worked for between four to eight years.”
He was echoed by another silk, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, who decried the high level of impunity being perpetrated by political elites in the country.
“It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria is blessed with infectiously corrupt political elite as people who have nothing to live on other than the common patrimony of other Nigerians. I have never seen anything more provocative.
“The crisis we are experiencing in the nation today is directly attributable to the greed of these political elites. Somebody will have 10, 15 cars as well as several houses because he served for only 4 or 8 years as governor and then he suddenly becomes a billionaire at the expense of the public. It is not right and I don’t support it.
“The greed of political elite has given birth to kidnapping, banditry and other vices in the country. The way we are going in this country, we will bring the edifice down unless care is taken and we all condemn these illegal acts”, Adedipe said.
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, called on Nigerians to rise up and resist the illegality.
He said: “Political office holders are not part of those recognized by the Constitution who are entitied to pension and that was why they are enacting laws to back up their illegality.
“Those who are entitled to pension under the law are civil servants who have worked for state and federal governments or in private sector.
“The executive is manipulating the legislature at various states to pass these obnoxious pension laws. You can see that the State Houses of Assembly too are now imitating what the executives are pushing them to do.
“I think it is only the Nigerian populace that could stop this kind of illegality and stealing of tax payers’ money. All these things are showing that this country is clearly sick. It is only a sick country that can allow this kind of thing to be happening unabated.
“People should speak and rise up through protests to shut down this high display of impunity by political office holders.”
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