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SERAP issues seven-day ultimatum to governors to disclose payment of pensions to ex-governors

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THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi, his Deputy, Aminu Tambuwal and other 34 governors to urgently disclose details of payment of pensions to former governors and other ex-officials between 1999 and 2019 under your state’s pension law, and to provide a copy of the said pension law.

SERAP in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to the governors dated 9 December, 2019 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said public officials should not encourage, sustain, or implement jumbo pension laws that show an appearance of conflict of interest, impropriety or create situation of personal enrichment.

The organisation argued that that pension law according to him, negates the duty to act honestly and to represent the needs and concerns of the people, and to refrain from activities, which interfere with the proper discharge of public functions.

According to the FOI, “Any such pension law also represents the use of public office to advance private interests at the expense of some public interest, suggests the misuse of legitimate discretion for improper reasons, and has created a more cynical public view of politics and politicians.”

“Those who manage the resources of the state ought to protect the interest of the people in their states. Public officials while entrusted with duties and discretions are not to act in their own best interest, but to discharge those duties and exercise those powers in the interests of the public.”

“Pension law for former governors and other senior ex-officials represents a conflict with the constitutional and legal conflict code of conduct for public officials, and would seem to prioritise private interest of former state officials over and above the public interest and public duties of state governors.”

“The duties on public officials including governors flowing from their position as trustees to the public also include the duty to refrain from activities which interfere with the proper discharge of their functions, and the duty not to place themselves in a position where public duty conflicts with private interest.”

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It would be recalled that a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos last week Thursday ordered the Federal Government to recover life pensions collected by the former governors.

The case was filed by SERAP and described the court ruling  as a “landmark judgement.”

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

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.

The former governors identified by SERAP to 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.

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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).

This was as Zamfara State of House of Assembly on November 26 repealed the law mandating the state government to pay pension and other entitlements of former governors and deputies, as well as those of speakers and their deputies.

The Lagos State House of Assembly, through Tunde Braimoh, Chairman House Committee on Information and Strategy in an interview with NAN said the house will not repeal the state’s pension law permitting former governors and other public office holders to receive juicy pensions from state coffers.

Braimoh faulted the court ruling that ordered Malami to take immediate legal action toward the repealing of state laws that permit “former governors to enjoy  emoluments’ while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.

He said as long as the law did not contravene the constitution, state assemblies had the right to make laws for the benefit of the society in which they operate.

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Olayinka works with The ICIR as the Social Media Manager, Reporter and Fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via oshehu@icirnigeria.org. You can as well follow him on Twitter via @ShehuOlayinka1

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