Checking Arbitrary Pensions For Former Political Office Holders
One major feature of the present democratic system in Nigeria is the approval of a generous pension package for former governors and their deputies.
Apart from working their way up, while still in office to become senators or ministers, these governors either persuade or compel their state Houses of Assembly to come up with legislations that make them enjoy pension for life.
For instance, in Lagos State which was the first to implement the law signed by former Governor Bola Tinubu in 2007, the legislation provides a lot of comfort and convenience for their ex-governors and their deputies.
A breakdown of the legislation shows that former governors in the state are entitled to a house each in preferred locations in Lagos and Abuja.
The law provides for six new cars every three years, one hundred percent of the basic salary of the incumbent governor, and free healthcare for the beneficiary and his family members.
Former governors in Lagos State are also entitled to furniture allowance, three hundred percent of annual basic salary, house maintenance allowance, ten percent of annual basic salary utility allowance, twenty percent of annual basic salary, car maintenance allowance and thirty percent of the annual basic salary.
There is also an entertainment allowance which is ten percent of the annual basic salary and a personal assistant who will earn twenty-five percent of the governor’s annual basic salary.
But in a surprise move, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced his intention to set in motion necessary machinery for the repeal of the ex-governors’ pension law.
Governor Sanwo-Olu noted that amid rising poverty, youth unemployment, inability of most states to pay the thirty thousand naira minimum wage, poor roads infrastructure, underdevelopment of rural areas, it would not speak well to ask fellow citizens to brace up for harsh economic realities, and yet allow a segment of the society live in affluence.
Lagos State is not alone in this gesture though, Zamfara and Imo States have repealed the governors’ pension package.
The Pension Reform Act of 2004 changed the Nigerian Pension System from defined benefits to defined contributions which means that private and public sector workers can only be entitled to a pension from the funds they contributed while in active pensionable work.
Since the salaries of the governors and their deputies are not subject to pension deductions, their pension is a different ball game, which can only be fixed by the revenue mobilization, allocation and fiscal commission but rather than have that, the states use taxpayers’ money to pay the illegal pension.
No doubt, the repeal will reduce the cost of governance and is expected to bring development to the various states.
With this, these governors have sent a message that those in public service can also make sacrifice.
Similar principle of self-restraint should also guide those in the private sector who have the powers, and use it to set huge benefits for themselves as such acts send the message to those below them to act recklessly.
Public service should be for those who have distinguished themselves in other endeavours, or for those who are capable of engaging in other works after a stint in public service.
It is pertinent that other state Houses of Assembly do the needful by abrogating this law once and for all, as what the country requires now are laws that will fast-track the overall development of the nation.