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On governors’ fat severance packages

As the baton of governance changes hands on May 29, 2023 across 28 states in the country, many outgoing governors are set to start enjoying…

As the baton of governance changes hands on May 29, 2023 across 28 states in the country, many outgoing governors are set to start enjoying a life of opulence at the expense of their states. Never mind the fact that these outgoing chief executives did little or nothing to positively change the economic fortunes of their states while they held sway in governance.

Based on laws passed by their respective state houses of assembly at their behest or those of their predecessors, many outgoing governors will be entitled to generous monetary pensions, mansions to be built in locations of their choice, luxury vehicles and domestic as well as security aides, among others. Some states went extra-mile to monetize the arrangement, which translates to hundreds of millions of naira.

In one of the states, for instance, a ‘Former Public Officers Pension and other Benefits Law’ stipulates that a former governor, on completion of his tenure, will 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, 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.

Despite the clear opposition to this outrageous arrangement, it is apparent that we are nowhere near the end of it. Presently, “A bill for a law to make provisions for the maintenance of former governors and their deputies” has passed first reading in one of the states and is set to become law before May 29, 2023. The bill is introduced in such a way that it will take retroactive effect from 1999 so that all former governors of the state will benefit.

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By these two examples, which are by no means the only ones, governors clearly want to continue the life of opulence they enjoy in office for life, and all at the expence of their states. While such legislations and bills are bad, the assumptions behind them are even worse. For how long will political leaders in Nigeria continue to see government only as a means of feathering their own nests at the expense of the governed? President Muhammadu Buhari once had cause to tell state governors that the obnoxious pension laws enacted by state assemblies “must go if Nigeria must survive” because the costs associated with them are clearly not sustainable in the long run by any state in Nigeria, since the list of former governors and deputies will be increasing every four or eight years.

In enacting these pension laws, governors rely on Section 124 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which states that “Provisions may be made by law of a House of Assembly for the grant of a pension or gratuity to or in respect of a person who had held office as governor or deputy governor and was not removed from office as a result of impeachment; and any pension granted by virtue of any provision made in pursuance of this sub-section shall be made in a charge upon the consolidated revenue of the state.”

It is clear that whatever state assemblies may determine as pension for former governors and deputy governors shall not exceed the amount to be determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, which is empowered to provide for the gratuity and severance package for governors.

We must also remember that governors and their deputies only serve at most eight years, which fall short of the 10 years period of qualifying for pension in the civil service. Some even go on to become senators or ministers, hence enjoying double salaries. States should, therefore, not be made to continue subsidizing the opulent lifestyles of former elected leaders. It is also morally wrong for a sitting governor to decide what he should get when he leaves office, when same courtesy is not extended to other workers who spend their productive lives in public service as teachers, health workers or even security agents. We, therefore, urge the states Houses of Assembly to rise up to the occasion, for once, and resist the temptation of being no more than a rubber stamp for governors. We also urge the legislators-elect across the states to repeal these laws where they exist as soon as they are inaugurated by their governors.

In this regard, we commend the repealing of the law that created pension allowances and gratuities for former governors, deputy governors, assembly speakers, and deputy speakers by Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma in 2020, as well as the refusal of former Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson to assent to the bill seeking lifetime pension for lawmakers in the state as proposed and passed by the Assembly in 2019, as examples that other states should emulate.

We also call for the standardization of the amount that all governors and other political office holders should take at the end of their tenure and this must be determined by the RMAFC, taking into consideration our economic and social realities. Where the state assemblies fail, the federal government must act.

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