Court orders ex-governors who collected pensions while serving as ministers, senators should return fund

FORMER governors now serving or had served as ministers or members of the national assemblies may have to return the money received as pensions since leaving the governorship position.

This is based on a declaration at a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos that ordered the federal government to recover life pensions collected by the former governors.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that led the court suit disclosed the “landmark judgement” in a  series of tweets on Wednesday.

It had sued the federal government in 2017 after it fails to “stop former governors from receiving double pay and life pensions.”

Giving the ruling, the court also directed Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors, “who are now senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices”

It added that the AGF should identify those involved and seek full recovery of public funds from the former governors.

“Having considered all the facts presented by SERAP on the need for the suit and the Counter-Affidavit against same, I find no reason why the order of mandamus should not be granted. I am of the view that SERAP’s suit has merit,” said Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo.

The former governors identified by SERAPto have received “double emoluments” include Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Kano State; Kabiru Gaya, Kano State; Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom  State; Theodore Orji, Abia State; Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa State and Sam Egwu, Ebonyi State.

Others are Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Jonah Jang (Plateau),Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara), Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), George Akume (Benue) and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).

The suit marked FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 has been adjourned to 3 February 2020 for a report of compliance with the judgment by the Federal government.

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“We won’t rest until this judgment is fully enforced and all state governors follow the Zamfara state example by immediately abolishing pension laws in their states,” SERAP tweeted.

Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer said the lawsuit was one of the most patriotic public interest litigation ever undertaken in Nigeria. He called on state governors to use the judgment as the basis for “formally repealing life pension laws and all other retrogressive laws without any further ado”.

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