Recently, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq heightened the discourse on the repeal of the pension to former office holders in the country. The Governor embarked on the process of revoking the pension packages to former governors Bukola Saraki, who was also the Senate President in 2015-2019, and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, who succeeded Bukola Saraki as governor in 2003. This revocation also pertains to their deputies.
Perhaps emboldened by the moves of Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, the Lagos State Governor, Governor Abdulrasaq also intends to reduce the cost of governance by minimising expenditure to cater to the fundamentals in society. It can be recalled that the National Industrial Court declared the payment of pension to former public holders as null and void, therefore giving more heft to the campaign to revoke such benefits.
Money is at stake for the former Governors, therefore there are bound to be expected backclashes. As much as the linkage between these proposed revocations and 2023 elections cannot be determined, what is clear is that money and power are twin-edged swords used to engage the populace.
Unfortunately for those looking for a fight between Godfather and Governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu has praised Governor Sanwoolu’s
intention to repeal the Office Holders Pension Law. He described it as ‘Bold and Courageous’. Many pundits have related this to strategy to pitch the former governor as a great and considerate leader, for a 2023 Presidential bid.
Concerned Citizens of Lagos, a Lagos public enlightenment digital group, revealed that the Lagos political class is comfortable with the arrangement because the repeal of the Lagos State Office Holder Bill is a response to best practices that have restricted the LASG from accessing some Government loans for infrastructure developments. Concerned Citizen released a statement saying that the LASG hopes to conform with The Pension Reform Act Reform 2004, a system that discarded any form of Defined Benefits and upheld the Defined Contribution System. In order words, the Reform entrenched contributory pensions as against Pension based on the number of years.
This pension system stood against the Bond Issuance of the Lagos State Government in January 2020. ‘The Nigeria Pension Commission disqualified the bond from accessing pension monies in the custody of the Pension Fund Accounts, the group noted. The group revealed the LASG has to sign an undertaking assuring the PFA managers that it would do away with any form of Defined Benefits before the State was granted access to pensioners funds. With the current challenge of the #EndSARS crisis, the Concerned Citizens noted that the LASG hopes to access new loans from the capital market which would entail abiding by the laws of the Pension Commission, PENCOM ‘ to qualify for PFAs investment’.
While the Lagos political public have embraced the repeal of the Office Holders Law, Senator Bukola Saraki has accused Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of scoring cheap political points over an already repealed law.Abdulganiyu Abdulqadir, Press Officer on Local Matters to former Senator Bukola Saraki said that Pensions for former public office holders had long been repealed by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed in 2018. Saraki accused Governor Abdulrahman of allowing politics to cloud his judgment in engaging governance in the state thereby heating up the polity for the ‘good people of the state’.
‘It would be recalled that in February 2018, the Kwara State House of Assembly revised the law and abolished payment of the pension, a move that was publicly hailed by the then-Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.’
“Since the review of the law in 2018, Saraki has stopped receiving any pension from the state government. These are verifiable facts that are in possession of the Kwara State Government. If there is any contrary information to this, we urge the incumbent governor to inform the public.’ Saraki’s spokesperson noted.
In a rebuttal, the Kwara State Government said that the law was slightly amended by former Governor Abdulfatah to disallow double payment of remunerations whenever a former governor functions in a public office
at both states and federal level after his tenure in office. Rafiu Ajakaye,
the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Abdulrazaq said that the bill will be sent to the State House of Assembly in order to revoke the law. Ajakaye said
‘This is consistent with his views, right from his days as a candidate, that the meagre resources available to the state are better channelled to tackle poverty and youths unemployment.’
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The Lagos State Government and the Kwara State Government are taking a step in the right direction. There is a need to channel the resources of the state and the retrieved expenditures into meaningful projects that will have a direct impact on the lives of the populace.