- As pensioners groan under unpaid arrears
Former governors are drawing billions as retirement allowances from state governments while pension arrears of retired workers have continued to accumulate, Daily Trust investigation has revealed.
On Wednesday, different groups including the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) commended the Zamfara State House of Assembly for abolishing the pension law for former governors, their deputies as well as former speakers and their deputies.
The Zamfara assembly had earlier on Tuesday repealed the law that approved different hefty allowances for former politicians.
The development came few days after former Governor Abdul’aziz Yari, in a leaked letter to the state government, requested Governor Bello Matawalle to pay him his N10 million monthly upkeep, allowance including arrears.
The development caused uproar across the country, with pundits saying top politicians who have access to all privileges of life were taking more at the detriment of civil servants and other citizens.
Reports from states by our correspondents showed that while the former governors and their deputy governors, and some states speakers and their deputies are receiving billions of naira yearly as allowances, retirees are being owed arrears for several years or months.
Findings showed that the bogus pension packages of the former governors are contrary to what is approved by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Charged with the responsibility of approving salaries of political functionaries in the country, the commission approved payment of 300 per cent basic salary as severance allowances for political office holders at the end of their tenure.
Responding to enquiries on phone, RMAFC’s spokesman, Mr. Christian Nwachukwu told one of our correspondents that while the commission fixes salaries and allowances for state governors, it doesn’t have powers over their pensions and exit benefits.
He also said he was not aware of any law that allowed governors to allocate “fat pensions” to themselves, adding that the Zamfara case was a litmus test.
“As it stands now, the commission is set to review the salaries of political office holders by year 2020. I can’t say if it would be downward or upward,” he stated.
He clarified that RMAFC doesn’t control the pensions of elected office holders at the state levels, saying “the issue is on the concurrent legislative list.”
Though there are exceptions in some states that do not make provisions for such outrageous payments, some of the states sampled by the Daily Trust revealed that former governors are being pampered in most of the states.
In a review of the pension package, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) cited Akwa Ibom where a law enacted by the state House of Assembly provides N200m annual pay to ex-governors.
Speaking to Daily Trust last night, SERAP’s Executive Director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni said they stand by their position that former governors should not be receiving jumbo pay at the detriment of the welfare of the masses.
The Gombe State Executive Pension Law enacted in 2008, during the administration of former Governor Muhammad Danjuma Goje, provided monthly salary for life to all former governors and deputy governors.
According to the law, the state governor and his deputy should be entitled to monthly pension at the rate equivalent to their salary when they were in power and the benefit should be for life.
An ex-governor is also entitled to a 30-day paid travel expenses annually to any country of his choice alongside his wife, so also the deputy governor and his wife.
They have a choice to ask for a befitting house of their choice at any location in the state, or may request that money equivalent to such house be given to them.
A former governor is also entitled to two utility cars, while his deputy is entitled to one car to be replaced periodically. The governor is entitled to an employee on level 12 who will be serving him, also to be paid by the state government.
Both the governor, deputy governor and their wives are entitled to paid medical treatment at home or abroad.
The state executive pension law also stated that a governor and his deputy serving their second term can pay themselves the housing and gratuity if they have successfully finished one term in office. Our correspondent reports that the law has not been amended.
The Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law No 11 Official Gazette of Lagos State, 2007 states that former governors of the state are entitled to a house each in any location of their choice in Lagos and Abuja.
Section 2 of the law states that, “One residential house each for the governor and the deputy governor at any location of their choice in Lagos State and one residential house in the Federal Capital Territory for the governor on two consecutive terms.”
Former Governor Bola Tinubu was provided a residential house in Ikoyi, Lagos and Asokoro, Abuja.
The law also provides six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7m per annum), as well as free health care for himself and members of his family.
The law also says former governors will be entitled to furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3m); house maintenance allowance, which is 10 per cent of basic salary (N778, 296); utility allowance, which is 20 per cent of the salary (N1.5m) and car maintenance allowance, which is 30 per cent of the annual basic salary (N2.3m).
Other benefits include entertainment allowance, which is 10 per cent of the basic salary (N778, 296) and a personal assistant, who will earn 25 per cent of the governor’s annual basic salary (N1.9m).
A former governor will also be entitled to eight policemen and two officials of the Department of State Services for life, according to the Lagos law.
In Katsina State, the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law, 2007 provides an annual pension for life which is equivalent to the annual basic salary of the incumbent governor or deputy governor as the case may be.
And a gratuity in such a manner and at such rate as may be prescribed by any law of the state under which such gratuity shall become payable.
Also, the law provides for two cars each for the governor and his deputy.
This law was later amended in 2011 granting two vehicles each for a former governor and former deputy governor of a value befitting their status after every four years.
Also, the law approved a furnished house of four bedrooms or its equivalent in the capital for a former governor and a furnished house of three bedrooms or its value in the state capital for a former deputy governor.
Others include free medical care in Nigeria or abroad for each former governor and former deputy governor, including their immediate families in addition to two personal aids and two drivers for each former governor and former deputy governor provided that the aforesaid privileges may at their request be monetised and paid accordingly.
Daily Trust also gathered that the law in Katsina was further expanded to cover ex-speakers and deputy speakers of the state House of Assembly as well as former governor of the state that served in the old Kaduna State.
Until the amendment of the pension law in March this year, each of the ex-governors in Zamfara was receiving N7m and deputy governors N2m every month.
However, months before handing over, former Governor Yari amended the law and raised the allowance of each of the ex-governors to N10m as upkeep allowance, deputies N5 million each, ex-speakers N3 million while their deputies would be going home with N1.5 million each every month.
There are also other privileges, including two vehicles to be replaced every four years, free medical treatment for a former governor and his immediate family, vacation within Nigeria and outside and a 5-bedroom house in any location of their choice within the country.
Meanwhile, the backlog of pension and gratuity of local government workers and primary school teachers stand at N3 billion while that of retired civil servants at the state level also stands at N3 billion.
In Kano State, former governors and their deputies started enjoying their pension package since 2007. It was conceived by former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau.
According to Section 3(1) of the Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2007, a former governor and his deputy are entitled to a monthly allowance equivalent to a basic salary of a serving governor.
A former governor is also entitled to a 6-bedroom house worth N250m at an area of his choice, while his deputy is entitled to a 4-bed room house in an area of his choice.
Both are entitled to an office within the state worth N90m, two brand new cars after every four years, two drivers and a special assistant to be paid by the state government.
However, the 8th Kano State House of Assembly amended the law to cover only former governors and deputies that are not holding any political position at either national or state level.
Two former governors of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Senator Theodore Orji, are beneficiaries of the Abia State Governors/Deputy Governors’ Pension Law.
Former deputy governors of the state are entitled to 100 per cent of the salary of the incumbent deputy governor.
Privileges for the former governors include an official car, a police orderly, two operatives of Department of State Service, two police men for the security of his house and allowances for cooks, stewards, driver and gardener.
Former governors and deputy governors of Bayelsa State are entitled to N3.66 million and N3.55 million respectively as their pensions.
According to the 2003 Pension Bill for Former Governors and Deputy Governors passed into law by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, the former governors and deputies will also be entitled to cars, personal aides, medicals and others not explicitly stated in the law.
However, former governor Timipre Sylva, during a radio interview early in the year, lamented that since he left office in 2012, he had never collected anything from Governor Seriake Dickson’s government as pension.
Early in the year, the bill seeking life pension for former speakers, deputy speakers and other former members of the state House of Assembly suffered setback as Governor Dickson declined assent to the bill.
There is gratuity of 350 per cent of basic salary for first tenure of a governor, and a gratuity of 450 per cent of basic salary for second tenure, while the percentage of “Pension” for first term is 70 per cent, and that of second term is 80 per cent.
A former governor is also entitled to well-furnished five bedroom duplex in Delta and any other state in Nigeria worth over N300m.
A former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa disclosed that what he receives as pension before the implementation of the new minimum wage was N741,000 monthly. However, the state government had announced an increase in the amount it was paying as pension to retired workers when it started the implementation of the new minimum wage in September.
In Kogi, there was a law passed by the state House of Assembly approving some amounts as monthly pensions for former governors, deputies, speakers and deputies.
On pensions of retirees, Daily Trust learnt that state pensioners who were cleared during the last screening exercise in the state have been paid up to November 2019 just like the state workers.
It was, however, learnt that some categories of pensioners who had issues with their screening were being owed some arrears.
The law stipulating pension for ex-governors and deputies in Rivers was passed in 2012.
A former governor is entitled to just one house anywhere in Nigeria and three new cars every four years; same thing applies for the deputies.