Jumbo life pension to ex-Governors: Repealing the obnoxious law to meet prevailing demands

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Financial and revenue shortfalls have most recently handicapped the Government at different levels in the Federation. Following the threats and chains of troubles that these portend, several recommendations have continued to come forward from different angles, positioned to jerk the Government to reason. One subject of recent concern that bears relevance to the issue is the need to cut the cost of governance. At the State level, the subject of the jumbo life pension to Ex-Governors and their Deputies has been on the top of political discourse very recently. Concerns over the phenomenon took stronger turn when the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, early November disclosed to the State’s House of Assembly the move to repeal the pension law that provides life pension for ex-Governors and their Deputies. Governor Sanwo-Olu had described the move by the Executive as a necessity to reduce the cost of governance and demonstrate selflessness in public service. The development constitutes one of the highlights of the Governor’s 2021 budget estimates with the disclosure of the move to repeal the controversial law on pensions for former Governors and Deputies. Addressing the state House of Assembly during the budget presentation on Tuesday 10, November 2020, Governor Sanwo-Olu had said his administration had concluded plans to repeal the Public Office Holder Payment of Pension Law, which prescribes pension for former Governors and Deputy-Governors in the state. According to him, an Executive Bill to repeal the law will soon be forwarded to the Lawmakers for consideration and passage. The Governor had said: “Mr. Speaker and honourable members of the House, in light of keeping the costs of governance low and to signal selflessness in public service, we will be sending a draft executive bill to the House for the repeal of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007). It provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies.”

Considering the situations amidst the prevailing hardship hailing from the acute economic depression and downturn, the outcry for cutting cost of governance have been in the front line among the well of recommendations significant for the Government to cope with the pressing demands of the present to moving the Country forward in the necessity for growth and development. Meanwhile, it remains pathetic that several governments at different levels, are not finding reason in the necessity to restrategise and change the drumbeat to meet the conditions of the demands of the prevailing situations. While Lagos has taken the bold step to repeal the life pension law to ex-Governors and their Deputies, other State Governments where the nauseating law operates lavishly, are hostile to such move despite all negative signs of financial and economic downturns. It is lamentable that some of these States  hostile to the move are wallowing in huge debts running in billions with attempt to secure more loans in the next fiscal year.

Aside Lagos, Imo State has already repealed the law while in Kwara State the move to repeal its own version of the law has passed the second reading at the State’s House of Assembly. Zamfara State took a step towards the direction in 2019 when it repealed its pension law that allowed for the payment of pensions and other allowances to the state’s former Governors and their Deputies shortly after the immediate past governor, Abdul’aziz Yari, in a leaked letter to the state government requested his N10m monthly upkeep. The letter had evoked outrage across the Country, with many people calling for the abolition of the law in States where they operate. It is lamentable that in certain States where former Governors and their Deputies enjoy jumbo pensions, they are equally entitled to houses, vehicles, vacation allowances, and medical insurance among other irrational packages. States like Ekiti, Katsina, Gombe, Adamawa, Abia, Delta, Taraba  Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Gombe, among others where these laws exist are clearly gripped amidst huge debts.

It is essential for the State Governments across the Federation to consider the prevailing circumstances of acute hardship among the populace owing to gross economic depression and recession. The time for the necessity to apply the principles of economic parsimony is no more than now. Speaking about change and development amidst the prevailing practice of profligacy in the face of financial shortfalls is unrealistically impossible. It is paramount for States to begin an overhauling of their administrative and governance systems to check out principles and provisions, particularly those with bearings on financial implications which are fiscally burdensome. The orientation of depending solely on monthly Federal allocations and the tradition of squandering same with little or no results to show on courses of growth and development, is bewildering to the advancement of the Country. It is by and large a clear reflection of selfish and wicked disposition if past Governors and their Deputies, some of whom, still push themselves through into other offices such as the Senate and Federal Ministerial positions with salaries and allowances, are still yearning for life pension after years of profligate spendings while in office. It becomes more saddening that many of these past Governors who largely looted their State treasury are still being paid after leaving office, while the poor masses who have been cheated upon, continue to wallow in penury.

It is therefore a point of forceful call for State Governments across the Federation where the obnoxious laws of jumbo life pension and allowances exist, to come to the sense of reason and repeal the sordid law which is by all means recalcitrant to development. It is instructive for many of the State sitting Governors who are eyeing similar treatment after leaving office, to consider the thoughtfulness of reason and make moves to repeal the law. This is important to move towards the lines of the demand of the prevailing economic conditions and the attendant socio-economic and political effects. Continually running the polity in the light of the prevailing depressing conditions is a threat that holds danger for the entire Country.