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Abolish luxury pensions for ex-governors, deputies

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State, on Thursday, March 21, 2024, signed the “Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Repeal Bill of 2024” into…

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State, on Thursday, March 21, 2024, signed the “Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Repeal Bill of 2024” into law. With the repeal of the “Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law Number 4 of 2021”, all former governors and their deputies in the state will henceforth not be paid pension. The pension, which was for life, provided for security, medicals, cooks, stewards, among others, for the former governors and deputies.

Speaking during a retreat for heads of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the state, Governor Otti lamented how money belonging to the state was shared as blood tonic by some persons, saying the repeal of the 2021 pension law for former governors and their deputies was a cost-cutting measure and not a political witch-hunt.

Reacting to the development, however, former governors and deputies in the state, including Orji Uzor Kalu, Theodore Orji and Okezie Ikpeazu, stated that none of them had been receiving any pension.

One of Kalu’s aides said, “As a former governor of the state, T. A. Orji did not pay him (Kalu) a dime as pension, and Okezie Ikpeazu continued in the same manner.”

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Similarly, Theodore Orji’s liaison officer, Ifeanyi Umere, said the ex-governor had not been receiving pension.

Meanwhile, had the law not been repealed, governors were eligible to receive generous pension benefits, including mansions to be built in locations of their choice, luxury vehicles, domestic servants and security aides. Some states even provide for the monetisation of the benefits which for every beneficiary amount to hundreds of millions of naira.

Since its introduction in 2001, the lush pension for ex-governors has continued to be a huge burden on the resources of many state governments, even as many of such former chief executives failed to improve upon residents’ access to basic necessities when they held sway as governors.

While the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) provides for former governors to be entitled to 300 per cent of their basic salary as their severance package, the current pension for one ex-governor ranges from N200m to N500m.

Before now, many Houses of Assembly, at the behest of their governors, passed laws that allowed the governors to enjoy 100 per cent of existing pay for life and fully paid annual vacation.

The law in one state, for example, stipulates that a former governor, on completion of his tenure, shall be entitled to a monthly pension equivalent to the salary of the current governor, two brand new vehicles to be provided by the state government and to be replaced after every four years, a six-bedroom fully furnished house, two personal assistants not below grade level 10, two drivers selected by the governor and to be paid by the state, a fully furnished office in any location of choice and fully paid medical treatment within Nigeria and abroad.

The governors rely on Section 124 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which permits a House of Assembly to pass a law granting pension or gratuity to a former governor or deputy.

After the 2019 general elections, the number of former state governors benefitting from pension and other entitlements rose to 121. And it is worthy of note that there were 21 former governors and deputies in the Ninth Senate and in former President Muhammadu Buhari’ cabinet.

Meanwhile, governors and their deputies are public officers whose maximum of two tenures fall short of the 10-year period required by Nigerian workers to qualify for pension.

Therefore, there is no reason for states to continue to subsidise luxurious lifestyles for public officers who, after eight years as governors, become senators or ministers; enjoying double pay. Besides, it is ridiculous for a sitting governor to decide what he will collect as entitlement after leaving office, more so at the expense of career civil servants who spend 35 productive years serving the state.

Given the economic realities of the country as a whole, outrageous pension benefits for ex-governors are certainly not sustainable, especially as the list of beneficiaries in each state increases after every four years without proportionate increase in their respective revenue profiles.

We, therefore, commend Governor Otti for abolishing the pension law for ex-governors in Abia State.

Before Otti, there was Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, who in 2020, repealed the law that created pension and gratuity for former governors, deputy governors, assembly speakers and deputy speakers in the state. The trio of Otti, Uzodinma and a former Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, who refused to assent to the bills seeking lifetime pension for lawmakers in the states as proposed and passed by the assemblies in 2019 are worthy examples that other state governors should emulate.

We dissuade Houses of Assembly from becoming rubber stamps to opulent pension packages presented by governors. We advise against approving pension benefits for former governors that exceed the limit prescribed by RMAFC. 

We also call on all governors in the states where the law exists to emulate Otti and abolish it forthwith.

 

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