Cover Stories, Politics

Scandalous pension largesse

-Ways governors are milking their states dry

Amid the spate of alarming poverty in the land, many Nigerian governors are sponsoring and institutionalizing scandalous and self- serving pension laws to enrich themselves in and after office.

Ibrahim Shekarau

Ibrahim Shekarau

From Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Kano, Gombe, Zamfara, Kwara to Lagos states…mindlessly capacious governors are conniving with equally light- fingered and lawless law makers to rip off their already impoverished states through pension laws authorising bogus monetary entitlements and enviable privileges for retiring governors.

Though this has been going on for a while now, the most recent one touted as one of the legacies of Governor Godswill Akpabio in Akwa Ibom has raised more dust than all the others. In fact, the passage of the controversial Akwa Ibom Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law, 2014 had put the governor in public domain. It has equally attracted so much outrage, condemnation and moral opprobrium from the critical public.

HOW DID GOVERNOR AKPABIO’S ‘UNCOMMON’ PENSIONS LAW EMERGE?

Senator Ahmed Sani

Senator Ahmed Sani

On May 22, 2014, the governor forwarded to the state House of Assembly, for consideration and passage into law, the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Bill 2014. He had in the bill urged the lawmakers “to enact a law to provide for the grant of pension and other benefits to elected former governors and deputy governors and for matters related therewith”. The bill was surprisingly passed on May 26 (in record four days!).Legally effective from June 1, 2014, it repealed the Akwa Ibom Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law 2006.

Here is a breakdown of the controversial Akwa Ibom Governors/Deputy Governor’s Pension Largesse.

Salary: A pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor/deputy governor respectively.

Cars: A new official car and a utility vehicle every four years.

Domestic staff: One personal aide and provision of adequate security for his person during his lifetime at the expense of government.

Provision of funds to employ a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month and N2.5 million for the deputy governor. That is N60 million for the governor and N30 million for his deputy.

Medicals: Provision of free medical services for his person and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100 million for the governor per annum and N50 million for the deputy governor.

Accommodation: Provision of befitting house not below a five bedroom mansion in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Akwa Ibom and an annual accommodation allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor.

Furniture: Provision of furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary once in every four years.

Severance gratuity: Provision of severance gratuity of 300 percent annual basic salary as at the time the officer leaves office.

Utility allowance: Provision of yearly utility allowance of 100 percent of annual basic salary.

Burial rites: When a former governor or deputy dies, the Akwa Ibom State Government shall make adequate arrangement and bear the financial responsibility for his burial, pay a condolence allowance of a sum equivalent to the annual basic salary of the incumbent to his next of kin and provide one surviving spouse with medical allowance not exceeding N12 million per annum.

But aware of the damage the criticism was doing to the person, office and political career of Akpabio, he had since returned the bill to the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly to expunge some of the obnoxious provisions many are kicking against. He also blamed his political opponents for inciting his people against him.

Similarly, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, in a phone chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Saturday, June 7, 2014 said the governor was entitled to a pension plan. He also clarified that the bill even predates him.

“All the governor did was to amend the clauses of the original bill put a cap on the session that deals with medical allowances to prevent open ended frivolous medical claims by former governors/deputies. No responsible government would leave medical claims open- ended because of the possibility of financial abuse”.

Despite this face- saving move by the Akwa Ibom state governor, it has not stopped the outrage that initially greeted the scandalous pension law as the vocal public and embittered citizens of the state are calling for a new pension scheme that would be in the interest of all.

A further critical look at the bogus pension benefits has also shown that beyond amending the provision related to removing a cap on the governors/deputy’s medical bills, there are indeed other offending largesse that assault the collective sensibilites of Akwa Ibom people. Some of these obnoxious provisions include the N90 million security allowance, erecting mansions for the retired governor/ deputy, the fleet of state maintained cars and the retinue of domestic staff that would be catered for by impoverished tax payers, among others.

Interestingly, the Akwa Ibom state Pension Bill has even exposed other past and present governors who enacted laws that conferred them with juicy benefits after all the perks of their exalted office.

In this ignoble leagues are states like Lagos, Rivers, Bayelsa, Kwara, Gombe, Zamfara and many others who have also passed outrageously crazy and self-serving pension laws.

LAGOS: 6 NEW CARS EVERY 3 YEARS, HOUSE IN  LAGOS AND ABUJA

The Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law, 2007 provides one of the most lucrative pensions in Nigeria. The highlight is that any former Lagos governor is entitled to six new cars every three years and a house in Lagos and another in Abuja. From ENCOMIUM Weekly’s findings, a  house in Lagos will cost N500 million and one in Abuja N700 million. A former Lagos deputy governor is entitled to five cars! The former governor and family (spouse and children, both married and unmarried) are also going to enjoy a free medical service which has no limit for the rest of their lives.

Another interesting provision is that the ex-governor/deputy are entitled to cooks, stewards, gardeners and other domestic staff who are pensionable.

THE BENEFITS

Annual basic salary: 100 percent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.

Accommodation: One residential house in Lagos and another in FCT for the former governor; one residential house in Lagos for the deputy.

Transport: Three cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car for the ex-governor every three years; two cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car for the deputy every three years.

Furniture: 300 percent of annual basic salary every two years.

House maintenance: 10 percent of annual basic salary.

Domestic staff: Cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff (no limit) who shall be pensionable.

Medical: Free medical treatment for ex-governor and deputy and members of their families (not just spouses).

Security: Two SSS operatives, one female officer, eight policemen (four each for house and personal security) for the ex-governor; one SSS operative and two policemen (one each for house and personal security) for the deputy.

PA: 25 percent of annual basic salary.

Car maintenance: 30 percent of annual basic salary.

Entertainment: 10 percent of annual basic salary.

Utility: 20 percent of annual basic salary.

Drivers: Pensionable (no limit to number of drivers).

Severance gratuity: Not specified.

FREE MEDICALS FOR EX-RIVERS GOVERNOR, 3 NEW CARS EVERY 4 YEARS

The Rivers State Pensions Law for Governor and Deputy Governor was passed in 2012.Like Akpabio’s pension bill, it was equally trailed by massive criticism, though the ruling Peoples Democratic Party backed Governor Amaechi who insisted it would discourage state governors from stealing public funds while in office.

“We have witnessed cases of state chief executives who died without places to bury them. It is not only for Amaechi and Ikuru (the deputy governor). Their successors will benefit from it”, the party had also said in defence of the bill the APC rubbished as anti people.

According to the Pension Law, a Rivers former governor/deputy is entitled to a house in the state or anywhere in Nigeria, in addition to a residential house in the FCT, Abuja. There is also provision for three new cars every four years. There will be free medical care (no cap) for the former governor, his deputy and their families. This covers both married and unmarried children. They are also entitled to a cook, steward and gardener but unlike what is obtainable in Lagos, they are not pensionable.

THE BENEFITS

Annual basic salary: 100 percent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.

Accommodation: One residential house for the former governor “anywhere of his choice in Nigeria”; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy. One residential house in the FCT. The state Government will furnish the houses.

Transport: Three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years.

Furniture: 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years en bloc.

House maintenance: 10 percent of annual basic salary.

Domestic staff: Cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff (no limit) who shall be non-pensionable.

Medical: Free medical treatment for ex-governor and deputy and members of their families (not just spouses and no cap).

Security: Two SSS operatives, four policemen (two each for house and personal security) for the ex-governor; one SSS operative and two policemen (one each for house and personal security).

PA: 100 percent of annual basic salary to be reviewed after every five years or when there is salary review of public office holders.

Car maintenance: 30 percent of annual basic salary.

Entertainment: 10 percent of annual basic salary.

Utility: 20 percent of annual basic salary.

Drivers: Non-pensionable (no limit to number of drivers).

KWARA: 3 NEW CARS EVERY 3 YEARS

In Kwara state, the pension law for ex-governors and deputies was first passed into law in 2003 and signed by the former governor, now late Mohammed Lawal. The law merely stipulated that qualified governors/deputies be pensioned for life without other perks like accommodation, cars and medical allowances. But the State House of Assembly reviewed the law in 2010 and passed a new one during the administration of Dr. Bukola Saraki. Theirs, based on the ex-governors request, even covers all democratically elected Governors and Deputies of the state since 1967.

The current Kwara governor and deputy governor (Payment of Pension Law) 2011 copies largely from that of Babatunde Fashola’s Lagos, but its provisions are juicier in certain aspects. For instance, it provides for well-furnished duplex for the former Governor, whereas Lagos simply said “residential house” Kwara specifies the qualifications of personal staff: two officers not below the rank of Chief Administrative Officer and two personal secretaries not below the rank of grade level 10, who shall be selected by the former governor and paid by the government. The law was signed by Dr. Bukola Saraki. And being a nice one, his successor, Dr. Ahmed Abdulfatal and the House of Assembly have retained it.

THE BENEFITS

Annual Basic Salary: 100 percent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.

Accommodation: Well-furnished 5-bedroom duplex for governor; well-furnished 4-bedroom for deputy.

Transport: Two cars and one pilot car every three years for ex-governor; one car and one pilot car every three years for the deputy.

Furniture: 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years.

House maintenance: 10 percent of annual basic salary.

Domestic staff: Cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff (no limit) who shall be pensionable.

Medical: Free medical treatment for ex-governor and deputy and members of their families (not just spouses).

Security: Two SSS operatives, one female officer, eight policemen (four each for house and personal security) for the ex-Governor; one SSS operative and two policemen (one each for house and personal security) for the Deputy.

PA: 25 percent of annual basic salary.

Car maintenance: 30 percent of annual basic salary.

Entertainment: 10 percent of annual basic salary.

Utility: 20 percent of annual basic salary.

Drivers: Pensionable (no limit to number of drivers).

Severance gratuity: Not specified.

KANO: 30-DAY PAID VACATION, JUICY PERKS FOR EX. GOV.’S WIVES AND CHILDREN

The Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2007, was signed by Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, who was the governor of the state from 2003 to 2011. It is unique in the sense that the gazette has two different schedules – one for a former governor and the other for the deputy. It provides for the former governor’s personal staff and another for an officer not below the rank of a Principal Administrative Officer and, two, a PA not below grade level 10 “who shall be recommended by the former governor and paid by the state government”. There is a provision for a 30- day vacation within and outside Nigeria, meaning allowances will be paid by the government.

THE BENEFITS

Annual Basic Salary: 100 percent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.

Accommodation: There shall be a furnished and equipped office in any location of the choice of the former governor within the state, as well as a 6-bedroom house; “well-furnished” 4-bedroom for deputy, plus an office.

Transport: Two cars every four years for ex-governor; one new car every four years for the deputy.

Furniture: No special provision.

House maintenance: No special provision.

Domestic staff: No special provision.

Medical: Free treatment for the former governor and his immediate families (could be up to four wives and countless children) within and outside Nigeria where necessary; same for deputy.

Security: No special provision.

PA: One for each, paid by the state.

Car maintenance: No special provision.

Entertainment: No special provision.

Utility: Payment of all utility bills (water and electricity) for both.

Drivers: Two drivers “to be recommended by the former governor and paid by the state government”. One driver for the deputy.

N300 MILLION EXECUTIVE PENSI0N LARGESSE FOR EX GOMBE GOVS.

Although, ENCOMIUM Weekly couldn’t get a copy of the Gombe State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Act, we learnt that the former governor of the state, Alhaji Danjuma Goje evolved a jumbo pension scheme for himself and his deputy as he was leaving office. Goje allegedly pocketed N300 million as a well deserved jumbo pension benefit back then.

ZAMFARA: 4 BEDROOM MANSION, PAID VACATION

Also in Zamfara state, the former state governor, Senator Ahmed Sani, signed a Pension Law in 2006. Like in every other state, the law gave him and his predecessors’ pension for life. Other mouth- watering benefits include two personal staff, two cars replaceable every four years, two drivers, two cooks/steward, free medicals for the former governor/deputy and their immediate families anywhere in the world.

The law also gives the former governor a 4 bedroom house in Zamfara, an office, free telephone and 30 day paid vacation abroad.

Stories by UCHE OLEHI

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