A Lagos-based human rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has instituted a suit against President Bola Tinubu over his alleged failure to stop the former governors who are now serving as ministers in his administration from collecting life pensions and other retirement benefits from their states while they serve as ministers.
The affected ministers are Badaru Abubakar, Nyesom Wike, Bello Matawalle, Adegboyega Oyetola, David Umahi, Simon Lalong, Atiku Bagudu; and Ibrahim Geidam.
According to SERAP, “The ministers are to be joined in the suit as defendants”.
In the suit designated FHC/L/CS/1855/2023 before the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, SERAP is seeking “An order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to instruct the former governors who are now serving as ministers to stop collecting life pension, and other retirement benefits from their respective states.
“An order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to instruct the former governors who are now serving as ministers to forthwith return any pensions and retirement benefits collected by them since leaving office to the public treasury.
“A declaration that the failure by President Tinubu to publicly instruct former governors who are now serving as ministers to stop collecting life pensions, exotic cars, and other retirement benefits from their states while serving as ministers is a violation of his constitutional oath of office”.
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In its argument before the court, the human rights group insists that “Compelling and directing President Tinubu to stop the former governors from collecting any retirement benefits while serving as ministers would serve the public interest, especially given the current grave economic realities in the country”.
SERAP, which further argued that the appointment of those who collect life pensions and other retirement benefits as ministers is an arbitrary and unlawful exercise of discretion and presidential power of appointment, posited that, “While many pensioners are not paid their pensions, former governors serving as ministers get paid huge severance benefits upon leaving office, and are poised to enjoy double emoluments on top of the opulence of political office holders.
“The Tinubu government has constitutional and international legal obligations to stop the former governors from collecting any retirement benefits while serving as ministers”.
In insisting that the appointment of former governors who collect life pensions while serving as ministers is implicitly forbidden by the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and the country’s international legal obligations, SERAP, through its lawyer, Kolawole Oluwadare, maintained that the constitutional oath of office requires public officials to abstain from all improper acts, including collecting retirement benefits while serving as ministers.
“This is inconsistent with the public trust and the overall objectives of the Constitution. A false oath lacks truth and justice. The oath statements require the oath takers to commit to uphold and defend the Constitution.
“Stopping the former governors from collecting double emoluments would ensure that the country’s wealth and resources are used for the common good and benefit of the socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians rather than to satisfy the opulent lifestyle of a few politicians”, the group added.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.