Buhari vows to checkmate looters of Pension Funds

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By Ohia Israel

 

From smaller states like Zamfara, Gombe, to bigger and richer states like Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Kano, Bayelsa, Kwara and Lagos unthinkingly capacious governors are conniving with equally light- fingered and lawless lawmakers to rip off their already impoverished states through pension laws authorizing bogus monetary entitlements and enviable privileges for retiring governors.

These Nigerian political elites, who while in office, continue to amass wealth, also want to continue ostentatious and flamboyant lifestyles even after leaving office. This no doubt accounts for the reason why Nigerian lawmakers and governors today even to the suffering of the persons they are ruling earmark billions of naira to themselves as pension benefits and passed it into law by their various state assemblies so that it becomes binding.

However, this obnoxious law is soon to be facing the sledge hammer of the President-elect Gen. Muhammadu Buhari when he assumes office on May 29th as the newly elected President of Nigeria. The President elect has said that he will be leading a campaign to abolish the pension laws for governors enacted by many states of the federation.

Buhari in his bold move to bring down the culture of profligacy and waste in the country has shown his inclination to abolish the laws when in a business meeting held in Lagos recently in which he was represented by former Ekiti Governor Kayode Fayemi said he will abolish the law.
It will be recalled that the president-elect doesn’t seem to buy the idea, according to a National Daily not (Desert Herald) which said a review of the pension for former governors was first publicly declared by the President elect few days to the presidential election at the All Progressives Congress, APC, retreat in Owerri, Imo State.

According to the medium, a certified source disclosed that Buhari told the governors that there was no way Nigeria could survive under the financial weight of the pensions that had been earmarked for governors.

He was said to have described the pension laws as enacted by states controlled by APC and PDP governors as scandalous. The source said “he was very blunt about it and said that it was something that was going to be done immediately, especially because it is not something that can be sustained.

“The feeling was that not only was it wrong and morally unconscionable, but that it was not something that should be encouraged and he was appealing to them that it should be changed.”

Meanwhile, the development was welcomed by Nigerians including leading Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, who described it as a fantastic proposal but disclosed that it was something that could, however, only be accomplished through moral suasion.

“Fantastic, fantastic. It is a very welcome proposal,” the Lagos lawyer, who backed General Buhari against President Goodluck Jonathan in last month’s presidential election, said. He, however, said the proposal was something that Buhari could only effect through moral suasion as the pension acts were enacted by state Houses of Assembly.

A look at the states revealed that Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states top other states of the federation with jumbo pension schemes for their former governors. When incumbent Governors Babatunde Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi leave office on May 29, 2015, they will join their predecessors to own convoys of cars and houses in their states and Abuja as their retirement benefits.

In the post-service schemes packaged by the governors, which their Houses of Assembly have passed into law between 2003 and 2013, the former governors and their retinue of aids would enjoy the benefits for life.

In Lagos State, for instance, Fashola, SAN will from next year get six new cars every three years from the state government. According to a previous report by online news, the governor will be provided with houses in Lagos and Abuja. One of such houses in Lagos cost N500 million and in Abuja N700 million.

The largesse is contained in the Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law of 2007, which was signed by former governor Ahmed Tinubu. It is described as one of the most lucrative pensions in Nigeria.

“The former governor and family (spouse and children both married and unmarried) are entitled to free medical treatment which is not capped. Another highlight is that the ex-governor is entitled to a cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff who are pensionable. The benefits 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 backup cars and one pilot car for the ex-governor every three years; two cars, two backup cars and one pilot car for the deputy governor every three years.

Furniture: 300% of annual basic salary every two years. House maintenance: 10% of annual basic salary. Domestic staff: Cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff (no limit) who shall be pensionable. Medical: Free medical treatment for ex-governor and deputy and members of their families (not just spouses). 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. Drivers: Pensionable (no limit to number of drivers). Severance gratuity: Not specified.

In Rivers State, Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, on his retirement will get three new cars every four years, as contained in the Rivers State Pensions for Governors and Deputy Governors, which was passed in 2012.

The law stipulates that “a former governor is entitled to one house “anywhere in Nigeria” and three new cars every four years. There will be free medical care (no cap) for the former governor and deputy governor and their families which cover both married and unmarried children”.

He will also have a cook, steward and gardener, but unlike Lagos, they are not pensionable.

The Rivers ex-governor’s benefits stand at Annual Basic Salary of 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy governor. Accommodation: One residential house for former governor “anywhere of his choice in Nigeria”; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy governor. 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. Domestic staff: Cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff (no limit) who shall be non-pensionable. Medical: Free medical treatment for ex-governor and deputy and members of their families (not just spouses and no cap). 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). 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. Drivers: Non-pensionable (no limit to number of drivers). Severance gratuity: Not specified.

The law further provides pension for life at the rate of the governor’s basic salary, 300% of salary for furniture paid every four years, three cars every four years, free medical, and 10% for house maintenance.

The law gives the former governor a security detail comprising two SSS operatives, four police officers, 30% for car maintenance, 10% entertainment, 20% utility and several domestic staff.

The Rivers pension law was first approved in 2003 by former governor, Peter Odili, having been passed by a state assembly headed by the present governor, Chibuike Amaechi.

Apart from Lagos, Rivers, Kwara State ex-governor will get three cars every three years.

The Kwara Pension Law was first passed in 2003 and approved by former governor, Mohammed Lawal, which stipulates that, qualified ex-governors and their deputies be paid pension for life, without other perks like accommodation, cars and other perks.

The law was reviewed in 2010 by former governor Bukola Saraki, now a senator, with the support of the Kwara House of Assembly imposed outrageous raises on all the benefits.

The current Kwara State governor’s pension law gives an ex-governor two cars and a security car, replaceable every three years. The governor is also entitled to a “well-furnished 5-bedroom duplex”, furniture allowance of 300% of his salary (which totals over N6 million).The law also provides the governor five personal staff paid for by the state, eight policemen, three SSS operatives(of which one must be a female), free medicals for the governor and the deputy.

Other entitlements are 30% of salary for car maintenance, 20% for utility, 10% for entertainment, 10% for house maintenance. Senator Saraki is currently drawing a monthly salary and a quarterly allowance of at least N40 million.

While it is also learnt that, in Zamfara State, a similar law was signed in 2006 by ex-governor Ahmed Sani Yerima, which gave him and other 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 4-bedroom house in Zamfara and an office, free telephone and 30 days paid vacation outside Nigeria.

The Gombe State version of the pension law is not too different from that of Zamfara except that the law explicitly states that the former governor or deputy governor has the right to be paid in lieu of benefits such as a house, vehicles and others.

The former governors are given pension for life, two vehicles changed in four years, two drivers, free medicals in Nigeria and abroad, a house anywhere in Gombe.

For Akwa-Ibom the pension law stipulates N100 million for medicare a year for former governors and their spouse, deputy and spouse 30 million a year, 12 and 6 million naira for widows of governors and deputies respectively. Accommodation, transport, furniture, Entertainment, Cars, and even their Domestic aids are provided for. Is this not wickedness? The generality of people could not explain the rationale behind such blatant daylight robbery.

This is the breakdown of the controversial Akwa Ibom Governors/Deputy Governor’s Pension Largesse.

Salary: A pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor/deputy governor respectively.

Cars: A new official car and a utility vehicle every four years.
Domestic staff: One personal aide and provision of adequate security for his person during his lifetime at the expense of government. Provision of funds to employ 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. That is N60 million for the governor and N30 million for his deputy.

Medicals: Provision of free medical services for his person and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100 million for the governor per annum and N50 million for the deputy governor.

Accommodation: Provision of befitting house not below a five bedroom mansion in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Akwa Ibom and an annual accommodation allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor. Furniture: Provision of furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary once in every four years.

Severance gratuity: Provision of severance gratuity of 300 percent annual basic salary as at the time the officer leaves office. Utility allowance: Provision of yearly utility allowance of 100 percent of annual basic salary.

Burial rites: When a former governor or deputy dies, the Akwa Ibom State Government shall make adequate arrangement and bear the financial responsibility for his burial, pay a condolence allowance of a sum equivalent to the annual basic salary of the incumbent to his next of kin and provide one surviving spouse with medical allowance not exceeding N12 million per annum.

The Pension Rights of Governors and Deputies Law 2007 in Kano which came on board during Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau’s tenure stipulates, 100% of annual basic salaries of the Incumbent Governor and Deputy, two cars every four years for governors and one for their deputies and the provision of free treatment for them and their families.
The Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2007, was signed by Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, who was the governor of the state from 2003 to 2011. It is unique in the sense that the gazette has two different schedules – one for a former governor and the other for the deputy. It provides for the former governor’s personal staff and another for an officer not below the rank of a Principal Administrative Officer and, two, a PA not below grade level 10 “who shall be recommended by the former governor and paid by the state government”. There is a provision for a 30- day vacation within and outside Nigeria, meaning allowances will be paid by the government.

THE KANO PENSION BENEFITS ARE: Annual Basic Salary: 100 percent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.

Accommodation: There shall be a furnished and equipped office in any location of the choice of the former governor within the state, as well as a 6-bedroom house; “well-furnished” 4-bedroom for deputy, plus an office.

Transport: Two cars every four years for ex-governor; one new car every four years for the deputy. Furniture: No special provision. House maintenance: No special provision. Domestic staff: No special provision.

Medical: Free treatment for the former governor and his immediate families (could be up to four wives and countless children) within and outside Nigeria where necessary; same for deputy. Security: No special provision. PA: One for each, paid by the state. Car maintenance: No special provision. Entertainment: No special provision. Utility: Payment of all utility bills (water and electricity) for both. Drivers: Two drivers “to be recommended by the former governor and paid by the state government”. One driver for the deputy.

For Edo it is the same as the Edo State House of Assembly on May 16, 2007 passed a law entitled ‘Provision for the Pension of Rights of the Governor and Deputy Governor of the state.’

This law was passed few weeks before Governor Lucky Igbinedion left office as Governor of Edo State.

It provides for 100 per cent pension for the governor at a rate similar to the salary of the incumbent office holder and for domestic staff among others for the former governor.

Also the Oyo State Pension Law 2004 provides that the Governor and Deputy Governor after leaving office shall be entitled to Pension for life at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent Governor or Deputy Governor as well as Furniture Allowance of 300 per cent of the annual basic salary, Leave Allowance of 10 per cent of annual basic salary and severance allowance of 300 per cent of the annual basic salary.

If anyone described these staggering benefits accrued to ex-governors and their deputies as the eighth wonder of the world, such a fellow would not be far from the truth. In truth, this recklessness with state funds could only happen in Nigeria.

In his theory of Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bethan opined that “governance should be about the greatest good to the greatest number of people” So why the benefit of the few being propagated by our governors? Is the Security vote not enough? Should a Governor get pension in the first place? I thought only public servant are pensionable. The 1999 Constitution clearly states in section 280 and 318 on who a public servant is and those entitled to pension. The Governors and their Deputies are conspicuously missing from those to benefit.

The Constitution also defined the governors as political office holders and not public servants. You are entitled to pension after haven served for 15 years and Gratuity whenever an individual is leaving the service. So, should a governor like Andy Uba who served for 17 days be entitled to pension?

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