•Kwara no longer has such law –Ajakaye
•People should revolt against the policy, says Ubani
Some ex-governors and their deputies are presently benefitting from the jumbo pensions their state Assemblies approved for them a few years back, and this is causing ripples among Nigerians, who lament the situation of civil servants that are neglected as a consequence. ISIOMA MADIKE looks at the contentious issue with additional reports from MUHAMMAD KABIR (Kano) and STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI (Ilorin)
Under a pension law some states passed a few years ago, many former state governors since 1999, who spent a maximum of eight years in office, are enjoying millions of taxpayers’ money on a monthly basis in form of annuities. This adversely affected the states’ treasury.
Apart from humongous pensions, domestic aides, residential, office accommodation and vehicles replaceable on specific years in choice places within the country are also provided for them. With this, thousands of retired civil servants across Nigeria, who laboured for their states for 35 years, wallow in shameful penury and often die without getting their pensions and other entitlements from the same state they served with dignity.
However, some state governments are justifying this. For instance, the Kano State House of Assembly Speaker, Engr. Hamisu Ibrahim Chidari, who spoke with one of our reporters said since the pension and severance packages enjoyed by ex-governors and their deputies is a creation of law, there is no need to begrudge them. Chidari said because of this, his state governor, Umar Abdullahi Ganduje and his Deputy, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, are entitled to the packages as stipulated by law just like their former colleagues.
He said: “But as for us the Principal Officers of the State Assembly, we are not getting anything because we have never been paid.” However, the State Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Garba, when approached for his comment on this, said he has little or no knowledge of the payment of the severance package to the ex-governors and their deputies. Garba nonetheless admitted that the two former governors Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau have fully benefited from the pension packages.
But, in Kwara State, the pension packages for former governors and their deputies are no longer applicable, since the law establishing that was repealed by the current administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. When contacted on the vexatious issue, Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, said: “Kwara State no longer has a law awarding pension packages to former governors/deputy governors. This administration had long repealed the law, which it inherited from the former administrations.
“The repeal was in fulfillment of the campaign promise of Governor Abdul- Rahman AbdulRazaq and in response to the yearnings of the people of the state. But, the Kwara State government cannot speak for other states.” Commenting, former chairman of Ikeja, Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and activist, Monday Ubani, said that it is the people that could revolt against the policy and not the rubber stamp legislators. Ubani, who expressed surprise that some sitting governors are still ratifying the law as enacted by their predecessors, insist that “the only thing that could stop the shenanigans is when the people revolt against bad policies. Unless the people carry out a revolution, this country will not get better. We cannot continue like this, despite the fact that we have scarce resources we still have this kind of policy.
“The entire world is aware of what is going on and everyone is trying to manage the scarce resources in order to satisfy the yearnings of the people, but here, our leaders have unhindered access to our treasury, and when they leave they would still pocket the treasury of the state. The people have to do something about it; the day they wake up, they will know that they have woken up.” Incidentally, some former governors who are still in public service are not exempted from these humongous pension allowances, according to findings.
For some of them, it’s a double portion as they receive payments in their new offices while still being paid the huge sums as pension allowances as approved by their state’s legislatures. There are reports also that most state governments across the country have refused to adopt and implement the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), as captured in the Pension Reform Act 2004 and updated in the Pension Reform Act 2014, which is meant to provide a soft landing for retirees while also relieving the states of the burden of having to pay pensions to retired civil servants from the treasury.
Reports have shown that the annual pension allowances of ex-governors, excluding other humongous allowances, vary from state to state depending on how rich the state is, the number of ex-governors, and the audacity of a sitting governor to influence the state legislature to enact pension laws that protect his/her interest after office. However, some state legislators are beginning to listen to the people by either repealing or slashing the benefits in their states. For instance, Lagos Assembly is said to have slashed pensions for their ex-governors and their deputies by 50 per cent.
The House had approved the recommendations in line with the presentation of the report by the Chairman, House Committee on Establishment, Training and Pension, Yinka Ogundimu. Ogundimu, representing Agege II, had said that the committee reduced the benefits and other emoluments by 50 per cent, based on the present economic situation of the state. The lawmaker added that it had expunged the provision of houses in Abuja and Lagos for former governors, as stipulated in an earlier law operated by the state. The committee report as presented to the House further showed a reduction in the number of vehicles to be made available to former governors and their deputies. It was reported that the speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, had suggested that the former governors should get two vehicles (a car and a van) instead of the three recommended by the committee.
Obasa had also touched the amended bill in respect of the number of cars that should be provided. He had suggested that the cars be changed every four years instead of the three years recommended by the report. He had said: “By virtue of my office, I have seen former speakers who we just had to intervene in their lives because of the situations they found themselves in outside the office. We have also seen former governors in very bad situations. However, we must realise that this is democracy, and it is all about the people. We are here because of the people. When we represent people, it is good for us to listen to them as well.
“We must realise that we will always go back to the people for support. So, when we hearken to their agitations and reduce what existed, it shows that we listen.” However, some lawmakers had argued that it would not be too good to repeal the law in its entirety, as there were some important sections and stipulations that should be considered. The Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law of 2007, before the adjustment provides that’ “the former governor is entitled to six new cars every three years and a house in Lagos and another in Abuja. “Conservatively, a house in Lagos will cost N750 million and one in Abuja N1 billion.
The former governor and family (spouse and children, both married and unmarried) are entitled to free medical care which is not capped. “Another highlight is that the ex-governor is entitled to a cook, steward, gardener, and other domestic staff, who are pensionable. Other benefits are the an-nual basic salary: 100 per cent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy. “Transport: Three cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car for the ex-governor every three years; two cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car for the deputy every three years. They are also entitled to 300 per cent of annual basic salary every two years. House maintenance: While 10 per cent of annual basic salary for domestic staff: Cook, steward, gardener, and other domestic staff (no limit) who shall be pensionable. “They are also entitled to free medical treatment for ex-governor and deputies and members of their families (not just spouses). Security: Two SSS operatives, one female officer, eight policemen (four each for house and personal security) for the ex-governor; one SSS operative and two policemen (one each for house and personal security) for the deputy.”
But, the Zamfara State House of Assembly, just like its Kwara State counterpart, is said to have abolished the law required to have a pension plan for the former governors and their deputies. Sources, according to reports, had it that a memo from the former governor, Abdulaziz Yari, leaked to the press where he expressed his anger at not being paid his N10 million monthly allowance. It was revealed by the House leader, Faruk Dosara, that on an annual basis, the former governor and deputy took home a whopping N700 million and the lean purse of one of the poorest states in the country could no longer accommodate the huge wage bill. Some supporters of Yari had said that it was Governor Bello Matawalle who instigated the state lawmakers so as to throw himself off the yoke of Yari. Unlike Zamfara and Kwara states, Adamawa State Governor, Hon. UmaruFintiri’s media aide, Solomon Kumangar, was reported to have said that the state government has no plan to scrap the law, which was passed in 2008. “Adamawa State has such a law passed in 2008. For now, there is no plan to scrap it because there has to be a whole process of legislation before it can be abrogated,” he had explained. In Plateau State, the state government was also quoted to have said it was not thinking about scrapping the law, which came into effect during the administration of Governor Jonah Jang. The state Commissioner of Information, Dan Manjang, as reported said that the decision to repeal the law does not lie with the governor but with the people of the state through their representatives in the state House of Assembly. He had said: “Yes, I am aware that the details of the content now because I don’t have a copy of it with me. It came into effect during the administration of Governor Jang. I am also aware that the law has not been repealed. “But I can also tell you that it does not lie within the decision of the government to determine whether or not it should continue; the people of the state would have to decide that through their representatives at the state House of Assembly. “If the people say that they want it to continue as it has been, then the government cannot do otherwise. But if they want it changed, they should do so through their representatives at the state Assembly.” Many other states of the federation are equally not thinking of repealing the law, at least for now, as the retiring governors have set their eyes on enjoying the Largesse just like their predecessors irrespective of how the people feel about it.