Stakeholders frown at life pension for ex-governors, deputies

Pension
FILE PHOTO: Pension
Pension
FILE PHOTO: Pension

Stakeholders in the North West have frowned at the law granting life pension for former governors and their deputies, describing it as morally wrong.

A cross-section of those who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) called for the abrogation of the law.

Prof. Andrew Suku of Department of Public Administration, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria said the idea of life pension for governors and their deputies was unjustifiable.

“There are people who meritoriously served the country for 35 years and they did not take one-tenth of this amount of money, so, how can you justify that.”

“When you look at the package of the politicians generally, Senators, House of Representatives members and so on vis-à-vis what is happening in the country, does that make any sense.

“This makes public service to become public profit, people fit themselves into public office because of what they gain and continue to operate in that particular direction.

“So, the political class has to ask itself whether in a country like Nigeria, one of the poorest in the world in spite of our resources, if what they are collecting is justifiable.

“I am a professor, my monthly salary is not up to N350,000, my pension is coming from my own contribution out of the salary,” he said.

A lawyer and human right activist, Mr Ibrahim Ahmed, said serving the country for four to eight years cannot warrant life pension for governors and their deputies.

Ahmed also disagreed with the argument that the provision was made to stem corruption, saying that the whole idea was self-serving, not to advance the cause of any state.

He recalled that when former Gov. Sule Lamido of Jigawa signed the law for life pension for former governors, his predecessor took the case to court.

“The current governor then employed our services to challenge Lamido over the law, unfortunately immediately he was sworn in, he instructed us to withdraw the matter.

“This is a clear indication that the idea of pension is not beneficial to the society,’’ he said.

In Kano State, Executive Director, Center for Awareness on Justice and Accountability, Alhaji Kabiru Dakata, urged Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje to repeal the law granting life pension for governors and their deputies in order to free the state resources and reduce the cost of governance.

According to him, this will save resources which will be channelled into tackling unemployment and other issues beneficial to the state.

“This is unfair and unacceptable because it is beyond the package outlined for former political officeholders nationwide by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

“How can you pay ex-leaders who worked for four or at best eight years huge sum of money leaving those who worked for 35 years in the civil service impoverished or in abject poverty to die.

“I hope that all the states paying life pension to their former governors will follow the good examples set by Zamfara, Lagos, Kwara and Imo,” he said.

According to Dakata, the payment of life pension to former governors and their deputies is illegal.

A civil servant, Mr Muhammad Sadik, described the law as a continuation of the political class brazen exploitation of the masses.

“Civil servants are pained that, amidst rising poverty and the inability of most states to pay N30,000 minimum wage and poor infrastructure, the states have continued to enrich their ex-governors, speakers and their deputies,” Sadik said.

A lecturer, Ladan Annur, called on states operating the pension law to repeal it, as there was no justification for it.

“It is gross injustice because men and women who worked for 35 years in the civil service are not been paid their meagre monthly pension that has been rubbished by inflation,” he added.(NAN)

Dr Auwal Musa, the Executive Director of Productive Youths Development Initiative, a leading NGO advocating for good governance and accountability in Sokoto state, however, said there was nothing wrong in giving governors “reasonable” pension.

According to him, the present humongous pension for governors and their deputies should be trimmed down.

He also said that the security votes controlled by governors should be made illegal, as it was only an avenue to syphoning public funds.

”Non of the Governors can say with all sincerity that he is using a single kobo out of huge security vote to fight insecurity.

”Total elimination of security votes is paramount than life pension, Musa said.

A former Governor of old Sokoto State, Malam Yahaya Abdulkarim cautioned states on promulgating laws awarding life pension to the political office holders outside stipulated constitutional provisions.

Abdulkarim noted that government funds should not be viewed as charity.

Dr Abdurrashid Lawal, a lecturer at Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina, said that the current pension for ex-governors was unsustainable.

“I am calling on the labour unions and Civil Society Organisations to put more pressure on the lawmakers to amend the law so that the money going to these very few individuals will be reduced and used for other purposes.”

The Head of Civil Service in Katsina State, Alhaji Idris Usman-Tune, told NAN that the state provides gratuities, life pension to former governors and their deputies, with other benefits, for having served the state.

Usman-Tune said that the law was enacted during the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua when he was the state governor for only governors and their deputies who served the state from 1999.

He, however, said that the law was amended in 2011 during the tenure of Gov. Ibrahim Shema, to include
former governors who served their tenure in the old Kaduna State.

He pointed out that the law stipulated that a gratuity of former governor shall be 300 per cent of the basic salary of the incumbent governor or deputy.

The Head of Civil Service said that the law also provided that a former governor was entitled to four-bedroom flat and his deputy, a three-bedroom flat, once in a lifetime.

Other entitlements were two befitting vehicles to be provided every four years, a driver, and comprehensive medical care once a year.

Those benefitting from the pension law in Katsina State include Alhaji Abba Musa-Rimi, Alhaji Saidu Barda and Ibrahim Shema.

Comrade Umar Halidu-Alhassan, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Kebbi said there was no justification in offering pension to former governors.

“Remember, there are some of these governors who could not pay workers’ salary in their states talk less of paying gratuity or pension.

“As at now, there are some states owing workers more than one year pension.”

According to him, some states were yet to fully implement the N18,000 minimum wage tackles of the new N30,000 minimum wage.

“I don’t know why the people we elected to represent us are always bringing policies that suit their interest, policies that will only benefit them at the expense of the masses.

“Just last month, we staged a protest against the intention of the National Assembly to move the minimum wage from exclusive list to concurrent list.

“With this development, what will happen to somebody who retires as a Permanent Secretary or a senior civil servant and becomes a deputy governor, then governor, then minister, then senator, which pension is he going to collect?

“As at now, there are many of them who receive more than one pension, which is against the law of the land,” he said.

Alhaji Ibrahim Ngaski, Chief Executive Officer of Active Support for Rural People Initiative in Kebbi Kebbi condemned life pension for governors and their deputies.

“We will see to the rejection of such bill should it be presented to the state house of assembly, we will mobilise the citizens who are mostly poor people to kick against it,” he said.

Ngaski said that money meant for the development of rural communities would be diverted to continue enriching the already rich politicians.

“Go to rural communities, you will see how people are suffering and all as a result of bad governance, and the politicians are the architects of bad governance.

“And now they want to add salt to injury by providing for themselves huge amount of money meant for the development of these rural communities,” he said.

Dr Zuni Aminu, a lecturer at Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, said that the life pension for political office holders would drain state resources.

“Pension should only go to civil servants who spend over 35 years serving the country, not politicians who get out of office already rich and well-to-do,” she said.

The don said that in civilised societies, politics was not seen as a career or business as such not pensionable.

“It is an insult on hard-working Nigerian civil servants who retire and have to practically beg to survive because they are owned their pension by the same states where politicians are on pension.”

A banker, Mr Abubakar Usman, described life pension for governors as unsustainable.

“Due to the frequent changes of government manned by divergent political parties, it will be impossible to sustain.”

Spokesperson for Zamfara House of Assembly Mr Mustafa Jafaru-Kaura has given reasons why the lawmakers repealed the life pension law in the state.

“It was not desirable considering the inadequate resource and the security challenges faced by the state.

“The state government spends a lot to ensure peace and stability, therefore it could not afford to pay such entitlements to past leaders.”

Hajiya Amina Audu, a board member of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, said the desirability of the pension was defendant on some variables.

“The issue of giving former governors, speakers and their deputies live pension is not an issue, the issue is transparency and accountability.

“If the leaders ensure transparency and accountability while managing the citizens’ resources, after their tenure in office they deserved pensions.

“But most of our leaders are not transparent when it comes to issue of management of resources of their states,” Audu said.

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