THE Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), a Non-Governmental Organisation on Sunday says the Federal Government has called for the list of former governors and President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet members receiving double take-home and life pensions.
It stated that the decision was to ‘promptly comply with the judgment’ of Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo which directed the government to question the legality of states’ pensioning laws.
The court also directed that such benefits received from the state’s coffer should be recovered back to the state purse.
Aside from being in the Senate, some of the former governors had spent eight years as state administrators while few others are currently serving as cabinet members in the current administration.
“@NigeriaGov has requested the full list of ex-govs & ministers receiving double pay & life pensions so that it can “promptly comply with the judgment” of Justice Oguntoyinbo directing it to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws & recover public funds collected,” the group tweeted.
It stated further that the organisation already sent the list to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami, urging the minister to further probe those accused in the list and identify others.
Some of those accused in the controversial list include, “Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (Plateau), and Jonah Jang (Plateau). Others include Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); and George Akume (Benue).”
But the NGO identified Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, Kayode Fayemi, former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, and Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation among former governors who denied ever receiving double payments and benefits from the state.
SERAP emphasised that those former governors have either collected or still receiving double benefits through formulated state laws, an issue it requested the Federal Government to intervene, and possibly put to a halt.
“We’ve sent the list to AGF Malami, and asked him to carry out a further probe to fish out more ex-governors collecting double pay & life pensions.
“We said, Nigerians cannot wait for you to take legal action to scrap states’ pension laws and fully recover the public funds collected.”
It could be recalled that SERAP through suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/19/2020 had earlier approached the court to seek an order of mandamus to direct or compel the 36 state governors to publish names and number of former governors and their officials who received pensions and total amounts received between 1999 and 2019 including those who had served or currently serving in the National Assembly.
In a previous Freedom of Information request sent to the state governors, which later prompted the suit, only Ifeanyi Okowa, the Delta State Governor and Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, former Kwara state governor responded. Okowa had directed the State Head of Service to make the request available but still kept secret, according to SERAP.
“The question that comes to mind is: who should approach the Court where a particular law is not in the best interest of Nigeria as a country or National interest? Who should approach the Court where a particular law is detrimental to the interest of the country? Who should institute actions in court for the purpose of recovering public funds collected?” Justice Oguntoyinbo questioned prior to her ruling on the matter.
“In my humble view, the Attorney General should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation.”
The ICIR, however, contacted Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity to react on the matter and confirm the list, as few of Buhari’s cabinet members were allegedly indicted, but he simply referred the reporter to the AGF.
“Please read their story. They cited the Attorney General. Ask,” Shehu’s message read.
But, he was further asked on the implication of the controversial list on Buhari’s drive to ending corruption, no response was given at the time of filing this report.