Kwara state House of Assembly recently passed an amendment bill halting payment of pensions to former governors, deputy governors, and other political office holders after their tenures. SAMSON BENJAMIN examines the circumstances that led to the bill as well as the chances of other states to follow suit.
The passage of the amendment bill suspending the payment of pensions to former governors, deputy governors, and other political office holders after their tenure in office by the Kwara State House of Assembly followed the consideration of the report of the House Committee on Establishment and Public Service, at the Committee of the Whole House sitting in Ilorin.
Before the passage of the bill, former political office holders in the state were entitled to outrageous severance package, monthly pensions and other benefits.
The 2010 Law that was suspended pending assent by the governor, gives former governors 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 DSS personnel for his personal security; free medical care for the governor and the deputy; 30 per cent of their salary for car maintenance; 20 per cent for utility; 10 per cent for entertainment; as well as 10 per cent of their salary for house maintenance.
Largesse for ex-governors and deputies
Significantly, Kwara state is not the only state where former governors and their deputies are entitled to mouth-watering largesse after their tenure. Former governors and their deputies from almost all the 36 states of the federation enjoy similar largesse.
In some cases, incumbent governors have used their influence to coarse States Houses of Assemblies into passing legislation that entitles former governors and their deputies to even more outrageous severance packages and pensions.
For instance, barely 10 days after Comrade Adams Oshiomhole left office as a two-term governor of Edo state, the State House of Assembly passed a Pension bill giving N200 million and N100 million worth of houses to past governors of the state and their deputies. As expected, it drew protests and altercations between those who were support and those opposed to the development.
Similarly, in Lagos state, according to the Lagos Pension Law approved by former Governor Bola Tinubu in 2007, a former governor will enjoy the following benefits for life: Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja; even as property experts estimate such a house in Lagos to cost about N500 million and that in Abuja to cost about N700 million.
Other entitlements include: Six brand new cars, replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 per cent of annual salary to be paid every two years; and a pension of N2.5 million monthly amounting to about N30 million pension annually.
The former governor will also enjoy security details, free medicals including for his immediate families.
Other benefits are house maintenance worth 10 per cent of his annual pension; 30 per cent car maintenance; 10 per cent entertainment; 20 per cent utility, and several domestic staff.
Also, in Rivers state, the law provides 100 per cent of annual basic salary for ex-governor and deputy; one residential house for former governor to be located anywhere of his choice in Nigeria; one residential house anywhere in Rivers state for the deputy; three cars for the ex-governor every four years; and two cars for the deputy every four years.
Furniture allowance for the governor is 300 per cent of annual basic salary every four years en bloc; as well as 10 per cent as house maintenance allowance.
In Akwa Ibom, the law provides for N200 million annual pension to ex governors and deputies. They enjoy a pension, for life, equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor and deputy governor respectively.
Similarly, they are entitled to new official car and 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 free medical service for governor and his 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 per cent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor.
The ex-governor also takes a furniture allowance of 300 per cent of annual basic salary every four years in addition to severance gratuity.
The Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2007 provides for 100 per cent of annual basic salaries for former governors and their deputies.
Furnished and equipped office, as well as a 6-bedroom house, ‘well-furnished’ 4-bedroom for deputy, plus an office.
The former governor is also entitled to free medical service along with his immediate families within and outside Nigeria where necessary. It is same for deputy.
Two drivers are also part of the former governor’s entitlement 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 a provision for a 30-day vacation within and outside Nigeria.
In Gombe, there is N300 million executive pension benefits for the ex-governor.
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 medicals for the former governors and deputies as well as their immediate families in Nigeria or abroad.
The law also gives the former governors a 4-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.”
Double emoluments for former political office holders
Significantly, it is common knowledge that some of these former governors and their deputies who are enjoying these humongous pay-outs, which they term as pension allowances, are currently serving as either ministers or senators thus, receiving double emoluments.
Similarly, there are a few others who either retired either as civil servants or public officers; before serving as governors or deputies and are currently serving as senators thus, entitled to triple emoluments.
The case of former Governor of Plateau state, Jonah Jang, who is serving senator readily comes to mind. Senator Jang, who retired as an Air Commodore, from Nigerian Air Force, and thereafter served as governor for eight years.
Also, Senator Theodore Orji falls among those receiving triple emoluments. Orji, a retired permanent secretary is also a two-time governor of Abia state and is currently in the Senate.
Other former governors who are now senators are: Bukola Saraki (APC, Kwara); Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (APC, Kano); Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano); Godswill Akpabio (PDP, Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (APC, Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (PDP, Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (PDP, Plateau); and Jonah Jang (PDP, Plateau).
Others are Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto); Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); and George Akume (Benue).
Former deputy governors in the Senate are Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti); and Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe (Abia).
Former governors now ministers include: Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Chris Ngige (Anambra); and Babatunde Fashola (Lagos)
It is global practice for workers to get their severance pay after years of meritorious service, as well as pensions for the rest of their lives. However, the severance packages of these public officers have attracted public outcry.
Speaking to Blueprint Weekend on the jumbo package an expert in Industrial Law, Barrister John Ojochegbe, said: “the first thing to consider is that political office is not the regular 35-year civil service job. Political office holders like governors are contracted to do their assignments through elections, and so, should not be entitled to pensions like regular civil servants.
“It is like making provision for special pensions for sportsmen or artistes after earning millions in their active days or from endorsements for certain brands and image rights.
“Even if one argues in their favour, the premise of such argument remains faulty since their brief stay in political office benefits them much more than what they would have earned in 35 years as civil servants.
“As politicians, they enjoy various allowances from the ridiculous to the bizarre, while civil servants are owed for months. This is what makes these pensions immoral and unacceptable.”
Jumbo packages amidst unpaid salaries, pensions
Interestingly, in all of these, Nigerian workers are at the receiving end because all these are happening at a time when most states are struggling to pay workers’ salary; even as some state owe months in backlog.
Also, while these entitled politicians live in luxury from their numerous pension benefits, the ordinary pensioners after 35 years of service, are left stranded on verification queues in order to get their pensions.
Recently, the President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the union held in Lagos, revealed that 35 out of the 36 states in Nigeria are owing workers’ salaries despite the billions of Paris Club refunds they have received from the federal government.
According to him, “We want to say without fear of contradiction that the only healthy state in this country that has no arrears of salaries and other wages or unpaid benefits is Lagos State. All the other states have one issue or the other in terms of salaries, wages or benefits of their workers that have not been paid. There is no exception.
“You will find out that, if it is not one month’s salary that is not paid, it would be 13 months of gratuities or pensions that have not been paid. Or that contributory pension deductions are not being remitted or that there are certain promotion arrears and death benefits that have not been paid. So, I am telling you, taking this issue holistically, we can only say Lagos state is the only healthy state in this country.”
“We keep saying that, if state governors cannot meet their obligations to their workers, they should just resign and leave the stage.
“We have continued to argue that, apart from the first-generation states, that were created by the military, there is no state that was created thereafter that did not have its submission that the state had the capacity to pay the wages of the workers in the state and other things.”
End in sight?
Shortly after the bill was passed by the Kwara State House of Assembly, the senate president commended the Assembly for passing the bill to stop payment of such pensions. He also called on other states of the federation to emulate Kwara state and stop payment of pensions to former governors still holding elective or appointive positions.
Saraki in a series of tweets on his handle, @BukolaSaraki said: “I am happy that following my conversation with Kwara Speaker, @HonAliAhmad, two months ago, the Bill to suspend the payment of Pension to former Governors and their Deputies when they hold a Political or Public office was passed into law yesterday by the Kwara House of Assembly”.
He added that “Moving forward, it is my hope that other State Assemblies take a cue from Kwara State and pass similar pieces of legislation into law”.
Similarly, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, charged House of Assembly in other states to emulate the Kwara Assembly by stopping the pension to ex-governors and their deputies.
They also frowned at the way ex-governors and their deputies are holding political or public office and at the same time drawing remuneration on account of holding such offices.
According to them, “This is a commendation, while pensioners who served their fatherland meritoriously are denied their pension benefits. ACF, therefore, appeals to other State Houses of Assembly to emulate the good example of the Kwara Assembly. We, equally urges the Kwara state governor to assent to the bill”.
In the same vein, Co-convener of Citizen Engagement Project (CEP), Barrister Bala Adamu, told Blueprint weekend that “Following the positive engagement and intervention by the senate president on the matter, it is now indefensible for the other 35 states to remain indifferent to the issue of double emoluments for ex-governors and their deputies”.
CSO’s challenge NGF
Meanwhile, Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s), have challenged the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Abdulaziz Yari, and his colleagues to show commitment and end double pay to ex-governors and their deputies.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a statement by its deputy director Timothy Adewale, called on the Zamfara state governor to emulate the example of senate president and make a clear public commitment that the Governors’ Forum and all governors will take immediate steps to abolish double emoluments law for former governors and deputies in their states.
SERAP challenged Governor Yari, “to show leadership by example by starting the campaign within the Governors’ Forum to abolish double emoluments laws.
The project urged the governor to kick-start the move from his own Zamfara state, which has passed laws allowing former governors to receive pension for life among others.
Similarly, Executive Secretary of Accountability Project, Barrister Chukwuma Orizu, told Blueprint Weekend that his organization “frowns at the situation where former governors and deputies receive pension after expiration of their tenures in office, while still holding public offices”.
He also urged Governor Yari “to speak out strongly against double pension’s laws and encourage his colleagues to urgently take measures to abolish such laws in their states for the sake of millions of Nigerians who deserve good governance and sustainable development”.
As things stand, it is expected that the Kwara state governor will sign the bill into law so as to encourage other states to follow. However, whether the remaining states will follow their footsteps is, at best, unclear.