Obnoxious life pension scheme for ex-governors

Last week, a letter written by ex-Governor of Zamfara State, Abdul-Aziz Yari, to the incumbent, Bello Matawalle, demanding the payment of his N10m monthly upkeep allowance sparked public outrage and caused the state governor to sponsor a bill for the abrogation of the law making it mandatory for the payment of such mindless sums of money amidst the misery of the people of the state. Matawalle has deservedly been receiving accolades for this bold step.

Imagine a state like Zamfara with high cases of poverty, unemployment, insecurity and infrastructure deficit paying N10m each as upkeep allowance to its ex-governors, deputies N5m each, ex-speakers N3m while their deputies laugh home with N1.5m each every month. There were also other privileges embedded in the obnoxious pension law, including two vehicles to be replaced every four years, free medical treatment for a former governor and his immediate family, vacation within Nigeria and outside and a five-bedroom house in any location of their choice within the country. Meanwhile, the backlog of pensions and gratuities of local government workers and primary school teachers stands at N3bn while that of retired civil servants at the state level also stands at N3bn.

The Daily Trust newspaper in a features story published on Friday, November 29, 2019, captured the life pension laws of 12 states namely, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Delta, Bayelsa, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi and Rivers states. Others include Gombe, Abia, Katsina, and Zamfara.  The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project better known as SERAP in a June 1, 2019 publication of The Nation, in addition to the aforementioned, published the Life Pension Laws of Sokoto, Kwara  and Osun states. Space will not allow me to recount the details of these laws on this page. But for the purpose of analysis, permit me to quote three of such anti-people pieces of legislation.

In Lagos, the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law No 11 Official Gazette of Lagos State, 2007 states that former governors of the state are entitled to a house each in any location of their choice in Lagos and Abuja. Section 2 of the law states that, “One residential house each for the governor and the deputy governor at any location of their choice in Lagos State and one residential house in the Federal Capital Territory for the governor on two consecutive terms.” The law also provides for six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7m per annum), as well as free health care for himself and members of his family. The law also says former governors will be entitled to furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3m); house maintenance allowance, which is 10 per cent of basic salary (N778, 296); utility allowance, which is 20 per cent of the salary (N1.5m) and car maintenance allowance, which is 30 per cent of the annual basic salary (N2.3m). Other benefits include entertainment allowance, which is 10 per cent of the basic salary (N778, 296) and a personal assistant, who will earn 25 per cent of the governor’s annual basic salary (N1.9m). A former governor will also be entitled to eight policemen and two officials of the Department of State Services for life.

In Akwa Ibom, the state law provides for N200m annual pay to ex-governors and deputies  for life; a new official car and utility-vehicle every four years; one aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the ex-governor at a sum not exceeding N5m per month and N2.5m for the ex-deputy governor; free medical services for the ex-governor and spouse totalling N100m for the ex-governor per annum, a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom; and allowance of 300 per cent of annual basic salary for the ex-deputy governor; 300 per cent of annual basic salary every four years and severance gratuity.

In Kwara State, the 2010 law gives a former governor two cars and a security car replaceable every three years; a well-furnished five-bedroom duplex; 300 per cent of his salary as furniture allowance; five personal staff; three DSS agents; free medical care for the ex-governor and the ex-deputy; 30 per cent of salary for car maintenance; 20 per cent for utility; 10 per cent for entertainment; and 10 per cent for house maintenance.

The conundrum is that some of these ex-governors have now become ministers and senators. For instance, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi; the current Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola; the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; and the current Minister of Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, are all former governors of their states. The All Progressives Congress National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, is the immediate past governor of Edo State.

In the Senate, no fewer than 13 of them are former governors. They include: Orji Uzor Kalu and his successor, Theodore Orji (Abia); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun); Kashim Shettima (Borno), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe). Other ex-governors in the Ninth Senate include: Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa).

It does not end there, as some of these politicians were former retired civil or public servants who decided to join active politics after their retirements. The contradiction here is that this category of people may be enjoying two pensions while also receiving jumbo pays and allowances in their current political offices.

That aside, is there any legal or moral justification for this humongous sums while the majority of their people back in the states wallow in abject poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment?

In a November 16, 2018 news story by this newspaper, it was revealed that while in office, the Remuneration Package of Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders, obtained from the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission showed that a governor’s monthly salary is made up of three items – basic salary, hardship allowance and constituency allowance. According to the RMAFC’s document, a governor is entitled to a monthly basic salary of N185,306.75.  He is entitled to a monthly hardship allowance of N92,654.37 and monthly consistency allowance of N370,617.50. These add up to a monthly salary of N648, 580.62 or an annual sum of N7, 782,967.50. Other allowances of the governor that are not part of the monthly emoluments are 10 per cent leave allowance which amounts to N222,370.50 per annum. Should a governor so desire, he is entitled to 400 per cent Motor Vehicle Loan which amounts to N8,894,820. When a governor completes his tenure, he is entitled to 300 per cent severance allowance, which amounts to N6,671,115. This is apart from what is provided by each state as pension and gratuity.

Now, don’t get it twisted, this sum is not what makes people to kill and main in order to become governors. The control of state administrative resources is the ‘aphrodisiac’. Imagine a governor like that of Lagos controlling trillions of naira yearly budget. Imagine the humongous ‘security vote’ which is not accounted for. Consider the influence-peddling they command. Just one contract from an influential governor can make an individual a billionaire overnight. Not only that, the ‘settlement’ from government contractors, the huge estacodes from junketing around the world in the name of searching for foreign investors and outright pilfering of state funds are what make these governors behave like tin gods, like Emperors, like the Lord of the Manor.

Truth be told, people who contest political offices including that of governor are not poor. The nomination fees alone are in millions of naira while political adverts and campaigns also cost a fortune, so does post-election litigation. So, anyone elected into that exalted position is not looking for the proverbial daily bread but personal aggrandizement.

I hereby vote for the emulation of the Zamfara example by all the state Houses of Assembly across the country where such obnoxious and anti-people law is currently exist. Governors who recently stoutly resisted payment of N30,000 minimum wage, who are owing their workers and pensioners arrears of salaries, bonuses, allowances, pension and gratuity should not be allowed to continue to milk their states dry in the name of an ungodly life pension!