Two weeks ago, on February 27, 2018 the Kwara State House of Assembly passed an amendment bill halting the payment of pension to former governors, deputy governors and other political office holders. The passage of the bill followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Establishment and Public Service by the Committee of the Whole sitting in Ilorin. State governments in Nigeria spend billions of naira to settle pension entitlements of their former governors many of who are serving as senators and ministers and are also drawing salaries from public treasury. Twenty one former governors and deputies are currently serving either as senators or ministers.
Various state assemblies had approved a wide range of entitlements for ex-governors and their deputies. In Lagos State for example, the Lagos Pension Law approved in 2007 provides that a former governor will, for life, enjoy two houses (one in Lagos and another in Abuja); 6 brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual salary payable every two years; free medical treatment for himself and immediate family members; and other allowances that cover utility, house maintenance, car maintenance and domestic staff.
In Rivers, a former governor is entitled to ten percent of annual basic salary, one residential house at any place of his choice and three cars replaceable every four years. In Akwa Ibom, a former governor receives pension for life equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor. He is also entitled to free medical services for himself and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100 million. Other benefits include personal aides, cook, chauffeurs and security guards.
Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law of 2007 provides for 100 percent of annual basic salary for a former governor and deputy. This is in addition to free medical treatment and 30-day vacation, both within and outside Nigeria. In Gombe, the law provides N300 million executive pension benefits for a former governor. Zamfara’s Pension Law of 2006 provides that a former governor is entitled, for life, to two vehicles replaceable every four years; free medicare in Nigeria and abroad; a 4-bedrom house and an office in Zamfara state; free telephone and 30 days paid vacation outside Nigeria.
While Section 2(a) of the Code of Conduct (CCB) Law provides that a public officer shall not “receive or be paid the emoluments of any public office at the same time as he receives or is paid emoluments of any other public office,” section 14(a) of the same law states that “members of legislative houses shall be exempted from the provisions of paragraph 4 of this code,” which prohibits a public officer after retiring from public service and while receiving pension from accepting more than one remuneration at a time.
It is immoral and unethical for an individual to receive double pay at the same time from public funds. Any law that provides for such should, in the interest of equity and accountability, be reviewed. This is because the law was exclusively provided for lawmakers to the exclusion of other categories of pubic officers. The pension package of governors and their deputies is grossly disproportionate to the pension paid to other categories of workers; making it unjust and uncalled for.
The suggested review of the CCB law should provide a caveat that would exempt former governors from being paid pension while they serve as senators or ministers. This is hinged on the reality that most states in the country find it difficult to pay the N18,000 minimum wage and paltry pensions to workers and pensioners. the caveat would give some relief to cash-strapped states that even with bail-out funds from the federal government, owe workers months of unpaid salaries and allowances.
The decision by the Kwara lawmakers to stop the pension of ex-governors is a commendable development. We urge other states’ Houses of Assembly that have similar pension arrangements to amend their existing laws and stop the payment of pensions to former governors while they are senators or ministers.