AMID dwindling revenues, unsustainable salaries, pensions, unpaid gratuities and other financial obligations, houses of assembly have nevertheless been further impoverishing their states, while enriching outgoing and former governors with outrageous severance and pension laws. This pervasive culture of entitlement is provocative, reckless, irresponsible, and corrupt. It should be stopped by determined opposition from lawmakers, civil society, and an active citizenry.
The PUNCH reported that 18 outgoing governors would bequeath at least N3.06 trillion debt to their successors. Data from the Debt Management Office disclosed that this translates to N2.27 trillion domestic, and $1.71 billion in foreign loans.
Despite the prevailing economic crunch and poverty, 17 two-term outgoing governors (among the 18) would be entitled to humongous statutory pensions and other perks, including mansions, luxury cars, allowances, security, and vacation. Yet, these states, and Zamfara combined, owe 42.5 percent of N5.33 trillion total domestic debts of the 36 states and the FCT, and 38.34 percent of $4.45 billion of their combined external debt. Comparatively, the total combined Internally Generated Revenue of the 18 states was N275 billion in 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Notably, state assemblies have been toeing the precedence first set by the Lagos State House of Assembly in 2007 when it passed a law authorising a sickeningly generous retirement package for the then outgoing governor, Bola Tinubu, now the president-elect.
The largesse included six cars every three years, a house in Lagos worth N750 million, and another in Abuja worth N1 billion, unrestricted access to medical attention, and pensionable cooks, stewards, and gardeners. Earlier, 100 per cent annual salaries of the incumbent governor, and 300 percent of annual basic salary were given to the former governors after every two years. Security operatives and police officers were also permanently assigned to them.
The avaricious law was only toned down by 50 percent in 2021 ahead of Tinubu’s bid for the presidency.
Governors and their deputies already earn comfortable salaries and allowances, as well as severance gratuity as fixed by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. While in office, they are maintained in luxury at public expense. But greed and the entitlement culture make them insatiable.
The Taraba State Government has strongly denied approving N2 billion to purchase luxury vehicles for Governor Darius Ishaku, his deputy, and their wives, days to the expiration of their tenure, a report thathad ignited public dismay.
But in Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom proposed a backdated former governor’s pension bill to the State House of Assembly to be given “utmost priority.” Benue struggles with poverty, insecurity, and labour agitation; it has external debt of $30 million, and domestic debt of N141 billion, but had IGR of only N6.7 billion in 2021. Its doctors are owed eight, and teachers 10 months’ salaries respectively; pensioners have not been paid for 30 months.
- Lagos Assembly cuts ex-governors’ pensions by 50%
- Nothing bad in taking care of Enugu ex-governors, deputies — Assembly Leader
- We’ll recall lawmakers backing pension for ex-govs, deputies — Ezeugwu
Notably, Kwara, Zamfara and Imo have abolished such laws. But Rivers, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Kano, Jigawa, Cross River, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Niger, Kebbi, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina, Sokoto, and 15 others retain them.
At the federal level, former military heads of state, and civilian presidents and their deputies are entitled to pensions of N350,000 and N250,000 for monthly upkeep, a house each and office, among other perks as spelt out in Remuneration of Former Presidents and Heads of State and other Ancillary Matters Act 2004.
About N13.8 billion was earmarked for pensions in the 2023 budget proposals for former presidents, vice-presidents, heads of state, chiefs of general staff, retired heads of service, and others. Another report cited the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s hardship allowance in their eight years at N651 million, and N319 million for the 36 state governors in eight years. Pensions should henceforth be adjusted to suit fiscal realities in the country.
Contrastingly, former United States’ presidents may be eligible for a pension based on the Former Presidents Act, which provides a range of benefits to ex-presidents, including a pension, travel expenses, and an office and staff. Such a pension is subject to income tax, and it is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index, explains the US Office of Personnel Management. In the United Kingdom, public office holders, such as MPs and members of the House of Lords, are eligible for a pension based on their service and contributions.
While their political office holders live large in and out of office, 133 million Nigerians — 65 percent of the population –are adjudged multidimensionally poor. The poorest include those in Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Kebbi, Gombe, Yobe, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara. Also, a backlog of pensions remains despite the disbursal of the $418 million Paris Club refunds specifically to defray this; many states continue to owe salaries and gratuities.
Reports revealed that states owed workers more than 20 years’ salaries. Taraba owes local government employees six months salaries and primary school teachers five months; doctors in Abia State University Teaching Hospital had not been paid for 24 months as of January; Imo owes many months’ salary arrears. Cross River owes street sweepers for four months, and Zamfara owes civil servants two months back pay.
Ogun, Imo, Cross River and others, also owe salaries and other entitlements for at least three months. Many states owe pensioners. By 2022, only a few states were in full compliance with the Contributory Pension Scheme regulations of the National Pension Commission. Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Zamfara, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, and Jigawa have not fully signed on to the CPS; in 2021, PENCOM said 22 states had liability shortfalls of about N4.74 trillion.
Although the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and other civil society organisations have consistently campaigned against the governors’ avaricious pensions, a broader coalition of critical stakeholders, labour unions, professionals and CSOs is required to stop the daylight robbery. They should rise to the challenge to stop the unjustified severance legislations. ,
Seun Kuti should have listened to his father
Matawalle urges EFCC to probe presidency officials, ministers
PDP, Labour Party kick as US Secretary of State calls Tinubu
APC gave North-West speaker, deputy senate president to compensate zone – Gbajabiamila
Uncertainty as Nigeria Air fails to fly 11 days to Buhari’s handover
Varsity admission with tears: Direct entry applicants sleep rough at JAMB office
Confusion as LP factions clash at tribunal
I regret backing Tambuwal to become Speaker – Gbajabiamila