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Public Office Holder Pension Repeal, Why Now Part 1

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Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State, disclosed that he would repeal the Public Office Holder Pension Law 2007: a law that makes provisions for pensions for former governors and former deputies. The Governor engaged the State House of Assembly during the 2021 budget presentation. The Budget Proposal which amounts to N1, 155, 022, 413, 005.82 was tagged Budget of Rekindled Hope.

The focus of the budget were youth employment, healthcare, and security of residents of the state. The Governor asserted that the Lagos State Government is responding to the carnage and intends to use the budget to rebuild the damaged structures, and rekindle hope in the hearts and minds of residents after the shock of the #EndSARS crisis.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, also, reeled out some of the achievements of the State Government especially in health, education and other sectors. N1.3billion was proposed for General Public Services, while N33billion was earmarked for Public Order and Safety. The sum of N382billion was presented for Economic Affairs. Other aspects of Governance expenditure include Environment (N51billion), Housing and Community Avenues (N40billion) and Health (N118billion). The governor provided a financial outlook of 5 billion for Recreation, Culture and Religion.  N144billion was proposed for Education and N9billion for Social Protection. The governor had also projected state-wide expenditures within the budget, these includes Contingency Reserve (N21billion); Loans (N166billion); Personnel Cost (N50billion) all of which approximately amounts to 1.16 trillion naira.

According to media reports the governor intends to persuade the State House of Assembly to repeal the Public Office Holder Payment of Pension Law which entails that former governors, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Babatunde Raji Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode as well as their deputies, will no longer be entitled to pensions. Governor Sanwoolu said that this action will reduce the disbursals from State coffers meant for governance to the former Governors. ‘It is our firm belief that with dwindling revenues and the appurtenant inflationary growth rates, (that) we need to come up with innovative ways of keeping the costs of governance at a minimum while engendering a spirit of selflessness in public service,’ Governor Sanwoolu said.

The 2007 Public Office Holder Payment of Pension Law No 11 Official Gazette of Lagos State states in its Schedule that at the expiration of the term or terms of office, the Governor and the Deputy Governor Law be entitled to 100% of their annual basic salary and other benefits stipulated by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. According to the law, his Life Pension excludes Governors and Deputy Governors who are impeached for breaches of laws, but provides for compensation of service for Governor or Deputy who leave office for reasons other than impeachment—including the sudden death of any Governor or Deputy Governor. The RMAC based on the preceding state law, provides allowances and other benefits and allowances that will be accrued to an incumbent Governor or Deputy Governor. The incumbent receives 300% of annual basic for his furniture, 10% for House Maintenance Allowance, 25% for Personal Assistant and 30% for Car Maintenance. The State Government is expected to provide accommodation, transport, direct staffs and security for the incumbent Governor for the rest of his or her life. The incumbent deputy Governor is also entitled to same compensation as the incumbent governor.

This translates to around N.7.7 million basic pension per annum and 778.296 for house maintenance allowance. The state provides cars for the former governors and pays the sum of N2.3million for maintenance allowance and a utility allowance of N1.5 million. other emoluments are entertainment allowance and personal assistant allowance. They are also entitled to domestic staff such as cooks, stewards and a gardener who get paid and are pensionable under the Lagos State Government. The state deploys eight policemen and two officers of the Department of State Service to them for life. The former governors of Lagos State also get choices houses in Lagos and Abuja in accordance with the Pension Law.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu legitimately owns a property in Ikoyi and Asokoro as a former Governor and the likes of former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, the current Minister of Power, works and Housing have also benefitted as former Governor. Ex-governor Akinwumi Ambode and deputy, Oluranti Adebule also started enjoying the benefits of their positions in May 2019. Many pundits wonder whether this new engagement is a bid to dispossess the incumbent government who reportedly waged a silent war with his godfather and his party. For many there is much that is shrouded in secrecy concerning this laudable decision of the Sanwoolu government which many fears may pitch him against all former governors in the state.

Read Also: Gov. Sanwo-Olu Endorses Lagos Rebuilding Order

Meanwhile, former deputy governors Abiodun Ogunleye, Sarah Sosan and Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire [the current Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)] are beneficiaries of the Pension Law. Deputy Governor Femi Pedro was impeached so he may not be a beneficiary of the scheme.

Although the Lagos State Government has been silent concerning the exact amount accrued to former Governors Tinubu, Fashola and the rest, the implications of these benefits can be gleaned from examining the approximate financial benefits accrued to Barr. Raji Fashola from his basic pension alone, between May 2015 and May 2020 (5 Years). This amounts to 38million excluding of all the allowances, and fringe benefits that are funded, and replaced every year, despite the fact that he currently holds the position of the minister of works and housing, where he continues to receive renumerations as well.

This led the Socioeconomic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) a civil society organisation, to challenge the FG to court in 2019, in order to make the Attorney General of the Federation to recover all allowances paid to former governors and deputy governors who are currently paid as former or serving senators, or as a ministers. The court acceded to the position of SERAP in the case thereby mandating the Barrister Abubakar Malami to retrieve pension remittances to over 21 governors who were or are now service in the service of their country at different capacities. Malami in turn asked SERAP to provide a list of those culpable of double renumeration.

The list comprising 21 names provided by SERAP included Bukola Saraki (Kwara State); Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Kiburu Gay (Kano), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (Abia), Abdullahi Adamu (Nassarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shabba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (Plateau); Jonah Jang (Plateau); Rotimi Ameachi (Rivers), Chris Ngige (Anambra), Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos State), Biodun Ogunjimi (Ekiti), Enyinaya Abaribe (Abia), Danladi Sanni (Taraba), all of those who have served as Governor, and Deputy Governors and have proceeded to serve in various capacities in the Nigerian Senate, or in the Federal Executive Council as Federal Ministers. SERAP’s intervention at the Federal High Court in Lagos made Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo to declare the payment of pensions to the former governors and their deputies illegal.

Likewise, the National Industrial Court rendered the payment of the pensions to public office holders null and void. This predicates the illegality of payment of pension to Governors and Deputy Governors with direct reference to Mr Umar, the acting governor of Taraba State who dragged the court and lost to the state, thereby setting a precedence.

Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State has engaged a subject that has long been in the circles of governance discourses and he is willing to test the waters by making Lagos more transparent and accountable to the people. Kudos should be given to him for making a bold step in an attempt to rehabilitate the state and reengage the positivism of the youth and the general citizenry after the darkness and destruction of infrastructure that happened during the #EndSARS crisis.

Femi Morgan

Photo Credit: Nairametrics

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