The choice of today’s title is deliberate and it is in reaction to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Projects (SERAP)’ s revelations that some former political office holders are collecting double pay and large emoluments. The expose is not new. It is what some of us have always known exist.
Some former governors and their deputies, after their tenure, have taken up other political responsibilities. Some of them are ministers, while most are in the National Assembly. It is noteworthy that while some of them were in office, they coerced their states’ house of assemblies to pass laws on their entitlements after their tenure. Indeed, one recalls the case of a state in the south south where the humongous entitlement attracted wide condemnation when it became public knowledge during a debate in the state’s House of Assembly. Due to the public outcry, the law was quietly passed without any one being the wiser as to what the governor and his deputies were entitled.
Not only did these former governors enshrine laws that gave them fat payoffs, this was extended to their deputies too.
Today, some of them are in the National Assembly as Senators and presently part of the executives as ministers. The entitlements from their states have not stopped and they are still collecting salaries and other allowances in their present office. SERAP put the total amount that has accrued to them to about N40b. This is a princely sum that could go a long way in providing amenities for their communities. This is another instance of corruption and double jeopardy. Double jeopardy because some of these former governors left their states worse than they met it. Most could not point to any landmark project or legacy they left behind, except legacies of embezzlement. Majority of them have one corruption case or the other hanging around their neck. Secondly, they are yet to let go the strangle hold on their state. They left their cronies behind who dared not change the status quo, who are there to ensure these payments.
But something must be done. Like SERAP noted, what is presently going on is against the spirit of the United Nations’ convention against corruption to which Nigeria is a party. Quoting SERAP, “ Under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, it is forbidden for any public official to engage in self-dealing, and place him/herself in a position of conflicting interests, and to hold incompatible functions or illicitly engage in providing to him/herself emoluments deemed unacceptable under international law. This is a clear case of the former governors placing their private or personal interests over and above their entrusted public functions, and unduly influencing the level of benefits they receive.”
Indeed, the situation is more worrisome considering that some of these states have problem paying workers salary. That’s not all. There are also some benefits accruing to these political office holders apart from the one they get as members of the National Assembly and as ministers. In Lagos, for example, “a former governor enjoys the following benefits for life; two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja estimated to cost between N500m and N700m. Others are six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual salary to be paid every two years, about N30m pension annually; free medicals, including for his immediate families; 10 percent house maintenance; 30 percent car maintenance; 10 percent entertainment; 20 percent utility; and several domestic staff.”
“In Rivers, state law provides 100 percent of annual basic salaries for ex-governor and deputy, one residential house for the former governor anywhere of his choice in Nigeria; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy, three cars for the ex-governor, every four years; two cars for the deputy, every four years; 300 percent of annual basic salary, every four years for furniture; 10 percent of annual basic salary for house maintenance.”
“In Akwa Ibom, state law provides for N200m annual pay to ex governors, deputies; pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor/deputy governor respectively; a new official car and utility-vehicle, every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5m per month and N2.5m for the deputy governor. Others are: free medical services for governor and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100m for the governor per annum and N50m for the deputy governor; a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom and allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor; 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years and severance gratuity.”
“Similarly, the Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2007 provides for 100 percent of annual basic salaries for former governor and deputy; furnished and equipped office; a 6-bedroom house; well-furnished 4-bedroom for deputy, plus an office; free medical treatment along with immediate families within and outside Nigeria where necessary; two drivers; and a provision for a 30- day vacation within and outside Nigeria.”
“In Gombe State, there is N300 million executive pension benefits for the ex-governors. In Kwara State, the 2010 law gives a former governor two cars and a security car replaceable every three years; a well-furnished 5-bedroom duplex; 300 per cent of his salary as furniture allowance; five personal staff; three State Security Services; free medical care for the governor and the deputy; 30 percent of salary for car maintenance; 20 per cent for utility; 10 percent for entertainment; 10 per cent for house maintenance.”
Although two of the former governors serving as ministers have come out to state they have not been collecting anything from their states, they are just the exception in a long list of present public office holders who have continued to further impoverish their states in this period of recession. It is important for there to be a review of this situation.
Any former governor or deputy who takes up public office should have the emoluments suspended for the period he is holding that office. Not only that, he should not be entitled to any pay off after the tenure of the office he or she is holding presently expires. It is also important to review the state laws on the entitlements of some of these former governors and their deputies in line with the current realities. It is a call to serve, not a call to further impoverish the people and make their lives more difficult.
Most importantly, the change slogan would resonate with the public if our former governors and deputies that are still active in government and the National Assembly also imbibe the change slogan and start with their own allowances and emoluments.