‘Life pension for governors, others unconstitutional’
Lawyers have called on lawmakers of other states across the country to emulate Zamfara State legislators by nullifying Pension Law for ex-governors, deputies and others. AKEEM NAFIU writes
Some senior lawyers have lauded the Zamfara State House of Assembly for the quick passage of a Bill which abolished pension and other allowances for ex-governors and their deputies as well as former lawmakers in the state.
The lawmakers had set machinery in motion for the Bill to shoot down pension payment a few days after a former governor of the state, Abdul’aziz Yari, wrote the state government, demanding his N10 million ‘monthly upkeep,’ which he claimed had not been paid for some months.
In his submissions, sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Faruk Dosara (House Leader, PDP Maradun) urged his colleagues to consider the ‘complete repeal’ of the law “which provides bogus payment to former political leaders of the state at the detriment of the retired civil servants who have not been paid their entitlements over the years.”
The lawmaker was worried that the state coughed out over N700 million yearly to cater for past leaders of the state, describing it as taking negative toll on the state’s finances.
Dosara was seconded by Hon. Tukur Birnin-Tudu (PDP, Bakura), who also threw his weight behind nullification of pension and allowances for ex-governors and their deputies.
After deliberations, the Bill passed both first and second readings after a process pushed by House Speaker, Hon. Nasiru Magarya.
The House subsequently went for a committee after which the Bill passed through third reading following which it was sent to Governor Bello Matawalle for assent.
In a statement, Spokesperson of the Assembly, Hon. Mustapha Jafaru, revealed that ex-speakers of the House of assembly and their deputies were also affected by the new law.
“With this development, all past political leaders in Zamfara will no longer enjoy any entitlement unless those prescribed by the National Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC),” Jafaru said.
Zamfara State Governor, Dr. Bello Matawalle, assented to the Bill a day after it was passed by the lawmakers at Government House, Gusau.
On the occasion, the governor regretted that social and economic realities in the state were not taken into consideration before the abolished law was put in place.
He said: “It is estimated that it will cost the state N702 million every year to settle the upkeep allowances for the beneficiaries of the repealed law alone.
“What moral justification could be offered for such a jumbo package for a few when the social index has consistently indicated that majority of our population lives in absolute poverty.”
The governor while promising to be more dedicated to issues of development of the state and the wellbeing of its people, also assured that his administration will not reneged in settling all the benefits of political office holders as provided by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
It would be recalled that the Pension law in Zamfara which was 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.
Lagos Pension Law
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 benefit for life:
*Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja. Six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 per cent 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 per cent house maintenance, 30 percent car maintenance, 10 percent entertainment, 20 percent utility, and several domestic staff.
In Rivers, the law provides 100 per cent of annual basic salaries for ex-governors and deputies, one residential house for former governor “anywhere of his choice in Nigeria while one residential house anywhere in Rivers for former deputy, three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years. His furniture is 300 per cent 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 and 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 per cent 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 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 percent for utility, 10 per cent for entertainment and 10 percent for house maintenance.
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 would 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 million.
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 are 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 per cent of the annual basic salary, leave allowance is 10 per cent of annual basic salary while severance allowance will be 300 per cent of the annual basic salary.
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.
Some senior lawyers have in the meantime thumbed-up Governor Matawalle and lawmakers in Zamfara for being on the side of the masses in abolishing the Pension law operating in the state.
The lawyers while speaking on the issue with New Telegraph Law at the weekend, however, expressed their displeasure that several other states in the country are still operating the ‘illegal’ pension law.
Speaking on the issue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ahamba, said other states should follow Zamfara’s example by promptly annul the ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ Pension law.
He said: “It shows that Zamfara State has learnt that the pension law is an illegality. What happened in Zamfara should also happen all over the country. There should be no pension for governors and their deputies for serving just for four years or at most eight years.
“They are not public servants and no law authorizes pension for them. Pension is under the Exclusive legislative list. How can a law made in a state grants pension to somebody? It is not possible.
“Even if you go to the Pensions Act as presently enacted, it made no mention of pension for former governors or legislators. So, it’s just a pack of illegalities happening all this while and nobody is talking about them.
“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.
“Pensions are 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.
“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.
“I appreciate the Zamfara State governor and the legislators for facing the truth in this country. I know that all other state governments will see the reasonableness of what they have done and follow suit.”
Another member of the inner Bar, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, while also expressing his happiness over what happened in Zamfara, attributed the existence of pension law in states to politicians’ greed.
“What happened in Zamfara State is a welcome development. It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria is blessed with infectiously corrupt political elite; 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 elites 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.
To Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), other states should immediately emulate Zamfara by repealing pension law for political office holders.
He said: “It’s a good development. For how long are those collecting the money in office that they are collecting such a humongous amount? I think they have really taken advantage of this country since 1999. It’s so ridiculous and I don’t know how we came to tolerate all these things.
“I hope those lawmakers in Zamfara were acting in public interests? At this point in time, many states lacked financial ability to incur all these useless expenses. I hope other states will follow suit as soon as possible.
“We have been having legislators in this country since 1960 and they have not been voting such useless allowances for themselves and those in the Executive arm.
“Besides, I think we must also weigh the justice because some people have collected this largesse in the past. I think justice demands that at some point these people must be made to return what they collected.”
A former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Monday Ubani, believed there can be no justification for the payment of humongous pensions and allowances for former state executives across the country.
“I am one of those who believed that if people have served, they should be taken care of. But, it must be within reasonable parameter. Anything that is unreasonable or outrageous must be condemned.
“You can imagine what was happening in Zamfara prior to the abolition of the Pension Law where a former governor was collecting N10 million monthly. That is clearly illegal and outrageous. I am very happy that the state lawmakers have abolished that law.
“So, if there is any other state where such outrageous policy is in place, it should be completely annulled.
“Political office holders are not part of those recognized by the Constitution, who are entitled 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”, he said.
A former President of the Campaign For the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, regretted that meagre resources states ought to use in paying civil servants are now being used to pay pensions to political office holders.
He said: “It underscores the point that they may have succumbed to an intensive and sustained campaigns compelling them to become sensitive to the overriding needs and feelings of the people of Zamfara State.
“Sustaining such disproportionate and incongruous retirement payment regimes for long serving civil servants and political office holders who, at most, served their states for a maximum period of eight years, unwittingly widens the economic gap between the ruling class and the governed.
“In the event, the same move is recommended for other states where meager resources designed to take care of pensioners are now diverted to service people who have looted the treasury of their respective states and also drawing jumbo salaries from their “retirement home” which is the Senate”.