The unconscionable allowances approved by State Houses of Assembly for former governors raised nationwide dust last week. It manifested in a a forceful and bitter diatribe between former Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar and his successor, Bello Matawalle. The row was instigated by a letter written by ex-Governor Yari to Governor Matawalle, seeking the remittance to him of two months arrears of allowances approved in March while Yari was governor.
In his letter, ex-Governor Yari said, “I wish to humbly draw your attention to the provision of the law on the above subject matter [unpaid allowances] which was amended and assented to on the 23rd of March 2019. The law provides, among other entitlements of the former Governor, a monthly upkeep allowance of Ten Million Naira (N10,000,000) only and a pension equivalent to the salary he was receiving while in office. Accordingly, you may wish to be informed that since the expiration of my tenure on the 29th of May, 2019, I was only paid the upkeep allowance twice i.e for the month of June and July while my pension for the month of June has not been paid. As the law provides, the pension and upkeep allowance are not in the category of privileges that can be truncated without any justifiable reason, hence, the need to request you to kindly direct the settlement of the total backlog of the pension and upkeep as provided by the law.”
Governor Matawalle reacted to this letter by exposing the fact that ex-Governor Yari had paid himself N360 million from the state pension funds shortly before he left office, and that the March 23 law would drain the state of N702 million annually as allowances for select former political office holders in Zamfara State. Following this outcry, the House of Assembly repealed the law in question and cancelled the jumbo allowances.
It was insensitive of the former governor to have taken such money as allowances from Zamfara State’s treasury, considering the fact that the state is one of the poorest in Nigeria. On the Human Development Indicators in 2016, it ranked Number 32 out of the 36 states of the federation, performing fairly better than Borno and Yobe States which have been destabilized by Boko Haram’s violent activities in the last 10 years. The acute poverty in the state manifests from Gusau, the state capital, to all the rural areas, most of them invaded by armed bandits and kidnappers who have sacked thousands of peasants from villages and forced them into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
We commend Zamfara State House of Assembly for repealing the law. We call on all states, where former political officer holders have influenced the passage of such obnoxious laws, to follow the courageous example of Zamfara and repeal such laws. Some of the ex-governors who benefit from the allowances have been elected or appointed into political positions that expose them to huge remunerations. Some have been appointed as ministers while others have been elected into the Senate. It is, therefore, scandalous that they still drain the blood out of the states the formerly governed with approval of monstrous allowances for themselves.
We acknowledge the need for former political office holders to be paid some allowances for their upkeep, but such payments should be in accordance with what has been provided for by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), which has that statutory responsibility to do so.