Nigeria: In and Out of Office, Nigerian Governors Are On a Roller Coaster

9 December 2019

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Ojo Maduekwe write that many state houses of assembly have gone against the recommendations of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to approve huge benefits for former governors and other ex-public office holders. It was a landmark judgment for millions of patriotic Nigerians, when recently a federal high court in Lagos instructed the federal government to recover pensions and allowances received by former and serving senators (and ministers) as former governors.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had sometime in 2017 sued the federal government over what it described as the "failure to stop former governors from receiving double pay and life pensions," and for the government's failure to recover over N40 billion that was said to have been unduly received by the former governors, some of whom are serving senators, and ministers, under President Muhammed Buhari.

Delivered by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, the matter was adjourned till February 3, 2020, for hearing on the report of compliance with the court order by the federal government.

Justice Oguntoyinbo said the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) could "institute action in a court of law to challenge states' pension laws for former governors." If done, this means that some former governors may have to return pensions and allowances received after leaving the office.

In a country where several governors are struggling to pay their workers the agreed minimum wage, observers have described as bad that former governors in the country have hijacked the national assembly and turned it into a retirement home of some sorts. According to them, it is repulsive how they have over the years continued to feed fat on salaries and allowances from the senate, and pensions from their respective states.

AGF to Comply with Court Order

The court directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states' laws permitting former governors, who are now senators and ministers to enjoy governors' emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.

Greedy Officials on State Pension

In the suit by SERAP, the following persons were fingered as beneficiaries, namely, former governors now senators, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Theodore Orji, Abdullahi Adamu, Sam Egwu, Shaaba Lafiagi, Joshua Dariye, Jonah Jang, Ahmed Sani Yarima, Danjuma Goje, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Adamu Aliero, George Akume, Biodun Olujimi, Enyinaya Harcourt Abaribe. The rest of them Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Kayode Fayemi, Chris Ngige and Babatunde Fashola are current ministers. Fayemi at the time of the suit was a serving minister.

Judging that the administration of President Buhari had taken steps that it said were geared towards trimming down on the cost of governance, people felt that it would be the one championing the issue of ensuring that former governors can only be made ministers in his government on the caveat that they drop the pensions that were being paid them by their states.

Since the suit was filed, Buhari has won reelection and had a new cabinet. However, it appears that the federal government is finally coming around. Following the judgment, Mr. Malami has said the government will comply with the court order, and "... be guided by the legalities of the case, the dictates of justice and public interest."

Immediately affected by the order, are five ministers in his cabinet, namely, Mr. Fashola (Lagos, Housing and Urban Development), Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom, Niger Delta), Hon. Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers, Transportation), Mr. Rauf Aregbesola (Osun, Interior) and Chief Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa, State Petroleum). Also, affected senators caught by the judgment include Orji Uzor-Kalu and Theodore Orji (Abia), Kassim Shettima (Borno), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Danjuma Goje (Gombe) Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibrahim Shekarau and Kabiru Gaya(Kano) and Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe).

When Pension Makes No Sense

A breakdown of the pension components for a former governor, using the Kwara State Pension Law for Ex-Gov. 2011, would look like this: gratuity of N100million, four duplex, two Staff minimum of GL 10, two brand new cars replaceable every three years (not less than N15 million), one pilot car replaceable every three years, 300% of sitting governor's annual basic as monthly pension, housekeep of 10% of annual basic of sitting governor unspecified number of domestic staff, medical for unspecified number of family members in Nigeria and abroad, two DSS officials for protection, one female police officer for wife of former governor, eight policemen for security, car maintenance of 10% annual basic of sitting governor, light, water, phone and other utilities of 20% of annual basic of sitting governor.

The Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law 2014 passed by Akwa Ibom State house of assembly is very revealing. The law provides free medical treatment for ex-governors, their spouses, ex-deputy governors and their spouses. A former governor and spouse could not spend more than N100 million a year, and a former deputy and spouse a maximum of N30 million. Widows/widowers of former governors are entitled to N12 million a year, while those of deputy governors would get N6 million. Other benefits include Annual Basic Salary: 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy. Accommodation: One house not below 5-bed maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom for the former governor; 500% annual basic for the deputy.

Transport: One car and one utility car every four years for ex-governor and deputy. Furniture: 300% of annual basic salary every four years. Domestic staff: Amount not above N5 million for ex-governor and N2.5 million for ex-deputy to employ cook, chauffeurs and security. PA: One. Car maintenance: 300% of annual basic salary. Entertainment: 100% of annual basic salary. Utility: 100% of annual basic salary. Drivers: Amount not above N5 million for ex-governor and N2.5 million for ex-deputy to employ cook, chauffeurs and security. Severance gratuity: 300% annual basic salary.

True to its reputation as Nigeria's richest and most glamorous state, Lagos provides a very enticing pension package for its former helmsmen. Some of the highlights of the Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law of 2007 include six new cars every three years and a house in Lagos and another in Abuja. The former governor and family are entitled to free medical without limit. Other significant details include Annual Basic Salary: 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.

Accommodation: One residential house in Lagos and another in FCT for the former governor; one residential house in Lagos for the 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. Furniture: 300% of annual basic salary every two years. House maintenance: 10% of annual basic salary. 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. PA: 25% of annual basic salary. Car maintenance: 30% of annual basic salary. Entertainment: 10% of annual basic salary. Utility: 20% of annual basic salary.

It is not just the governors that have abused the idea of pensions for public officials; in recent times, even state assemblies have wanted a piece of the pie. Sometime in May of this year, the Kano state house of assembly approved life pension for its speaker and deputy speaker. Part of the bill, which is only effective "provided that either the speaker or the deputy do not hold any paid elective or selective appointment," seeks to also provide for foreign medical trips and new vehicles every four years for the speaker and the deputy speaker.

Where that of Kano can be excused, that of Bayelsa was so self-serving. The state house of assembly in April 2019, approved monthly life pensions for all of its present and past members, setting N500,000 post-service monthly pension to the speakers of the assembly, N200,000 to the deputy speakers, and N100,000 to the members. To make it ridiculously easy to qualify for the speakership pension of N500,000 monthly, the lawmakers said, any official that was speaker, must have served for two years and above.

Before the current state of things, Akpabio, who was the Minority Leader in the Nigerian Senate at the time told THISDAY that there was nothing wrong in receiving his pension as a former governor, as well as, his salary as a senator. He didn't seem to understand why there was a clamour to drop some of the monetary benefits for persons in his position. In his reckoning both package of remuneration were deserved. And one could not be dropped for the other.

A lawyer, the former Chief Executive of Akwa Ibom State, who is now in the Federal Executive Council as Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, was unperturbed when the question was put to him. He responded self-assuredly, "Nothing like two salaries, because we are collecting pensions as former governors. And as a serving senator, we must be paid our allowance when due. At least we must maintain our office and as a former governor, we must get the pension for working as a former governor of a state. People don't understand because you can only receive only one pension as a former governor, and as a serving senator, you must get your allowance."

His colleague in the FEC and Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who previously served as governor of Rivers State denied ever requesting nor collecting pension from Rivers State as a former governor of the state.

Reacting via his official Twitter handle, Amaechi said that even if offered pension, he would have declined.

He tweeted, "I have never requested for or collected one Kobo as pension from River State Govt. If offered, I will politely decline and request that the money should be given to Rivers State pensioners. I do not believe that I should receive pension as ex-gov of River State while serving as a minister."

His Tweet implied that he will be willing to receive these benefits once his service period as a minister is over.

Knowing the no-love lost relationship between the incumbent Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike and Amaechi, that statement would have under immediate rebuttal from the Rivers state Government House, if it was not true.

In any case, this is what Amaechi would be enjoying whenever he is through with his current national assignment. Going by the provisions of the Rivers State Pensions for Governor and Deputy Governor passed in 2012, a former governor is entitled to one house "anywhere in Nigeria" and three new cars every four years. There will be free medical care for the former governor and deputy and their families ─ which cover both married and unmarried children. The cook, steward and gardener employed by these eminent indigenes of Rivers are not pensionable.

A former governor of Rivers is entitled to annual Basic Salary: 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy. Accommodation: One residential house for former governor "anywhere of his choice in Nigeria"; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy. Transport: Three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years. Furniture: 300% of annual basic salary every four years "en bloc". House maintenance: 10% of annual basic salary. Security: Two SSS operatives, four policemen (two each for house and personal security) for the ex-governor; one SSS operative and two policemen (one each for house and personal security).

These laws by state houses of assembly are not in tune with the recommendations of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the government agency saddled with the responsibility of fixing salaries and emoluments of public servants. The RMAFC makes a provision for 300 percent severance for the governors as stated in the Certain Political Office Holders and Judicial Officers Remuneration Act. Under that act, former governors and lawmakers entitled to 300% of their basic salary of N2, 223,705 amounting to N6,671,115 as severance pay.

Recently, the Nigerian public was incensed to learn that a very impoverished state like Zamfara, that is facing many challenges in the area of security and infrastructure development pays its former governors N10 million monthly. Governor Bello Matawalle has since been receiving applause for ensuring a repeal of the pension law for former governors and other ex-public officers, which provided N700 million annually for their upkeep. Justifying the annulment of the law, the Zamfara State House of Assembly said the state economy could no long support it, as it is "detrimental to the socioeconomic wellbeing of our people."

As the public outcry against jumbo pension enjoyed by former state governors and other public office holders increases in vehemence, majority of them are faced with serious allegations of corruption. Already, former governors Joshua Dariye and Orji Uzor Kalu, are serving various jail terms, though they were senators at the time of their conviction.

QUICK FACTS:

* Under the Certain Political Office Holders and Judicial Officers Remuneration Act, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the government agency saddled with the responsibility of fixing salaries and emoluments of public servants, makes a provision for 300 percent of their basic salary of N2, 223,705 amounting to N6,671,115 as severance pay

*However, many state houses of assembly have continued to enact pension laws that are not in tune with the recommendations of the RMAFC

*In 2017, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sued the federal government over what it described as the "failure to stop former governors from receiving double pay and life pensions," and for the government's failure to recover over N40 billion that was said to have been unduly received by the former governors, some of whom are serving senators, and ministers

*Making a pronouncement on the matter, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, said the Attorney General of the Federation could "institute action in a court of law to challenge states' pension laws for former governors

*If done, this means that some former governors may have to return pensions and allowances received after leaving the office

*The matter was adjourned till February 3, 2020, for hearing on the report of compliance with the court order by the federal government

*In the suit by SERAP, the following persons were fingered as beneficiaries, namely, former governors now senators, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Theodore Orji, Abdullahi Adamu, Sam Egwu, Shaaba Lafiagi, Joshua Dariye, Jonah Jang, Ahmed Sani Yarima, Danjuma Goje, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Adamu Aliero, George Akume, Biodun Olujimi, Enyinaya Harcourt Abaribe. The rest of them Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Kayode Fayemi, Chris Ngige and Babatunde Fashola are current ministers. Fayemi at the time of the suit was a serving minister

*The Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Malami has said the government will comply with the court order, and "... be guided by the legalities of the case, the dictates of justice and public interest."

*Immediately affected by the order, are five ministers namely, Mr. Fashola (Lagos, Housing and Urban Development), Senator Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom, Niger Delta), Hon. Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers, Transportation), Mr. Rauf Aregbesola (Osun, Interior) and Chief Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa, State Petroleum)

*Also, affected senators caught by the judgment include Orji Uzor-Kalu and Theodore Orji (Abia), Kassim Shettima (Borno), Sam Egwu (Ebonyi), Danjuma Goje (Gombe) Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibrahim Shekarau and Kabiru Gaya(Kano) and Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe)

*A breakdown of the typical pension components for a former governor, using the Kwara State Pension Law for Ex-Gov. 2011, as example looks like this: gratuity of N100million, four duplex, two Staff minimum of GL 10, two brand new cars replaceable every three years (not less than N15 million), one pilot car replaceable every three years, 300% of sitting governor's annual basic as monthly pension, housekeep of 10% of annual basic of sitting governor unspecified number of domestic staff, medical for unspecified number of family members in Nigeria and abroad, two DSS officials for protection, one female police officer for wife of former governor, eight policemen for security, car maintenance of 10% annual basic of sitting governor, light, water, phone and other utilities of 20% of annual basic of sitting governor

*It is not just the governors that have abused the idea of pensions for public officials; in recent times, even state assemblies have wanted a piece of the pie. Sometime in May of this year, the Kano state house of assembly approved life pension for its speaker and deputy speaker

*The Bayelsa State House of Assembly in April 2019, approved monthly life pensions for all of its present and past members, setting N500,000 post-service monthly pension to the speakers of the assembly, N200,000 to the deputy speakers, and N100,000 to the members. To make it ridiculously easy to qualify for the speakership pension of N500,000 monthly, the lawmakers said, any official that was speaker, must have served for two years and above

*Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has ensured the repeal of the pension law for former governors and other ex-public officers, which provided N700 million annually for their upkeep

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: This Day

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 600 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.