Listen to article
In a manner reminiscent of a bazaar, virtually all the Governors in Nigeria who are set to leave office are currently ransacking their state coffers to empty them. Beyond the ongoing looting, they have conclusively put up systems that will ensure that they live off their poor states for the rest of their lives. It is sad and regrettably painful that Nigerian Governors through their state houses of assembly are hell-bent on impoverishing their states through the payment of mindboggling, obnoxious, and outrageous sums of money to themselves for life!
What is perplexing and deeply confusing is how these Governors who failed abysmally while in office think that they deserve pensions and severance packages from their states. Governors who owed salaries coordinated astronomical rises in poverty and unemployment supervised the birthing of gargantuan insecurity, delivered decayed infrastructure, and ensured the successful burial of educational and health sectors in their states should be getting jail terms not pensions. Are these pensions a reward for failing their states?
Today, over 100 former Governors including the ones who stayed in office for less than a 4-year tenure are fleecing the finances of their states under the guise of pensions. Not even the dwindling revenues, a collapsing economy, astronomical debt burdens, and the pitiable state of Nigerians at the moment have forced these notorious Governors to have a change of heart. These selfish Governors have developed a despicable sense of entitlement that is highly provocative, corruptly reckless, and irresponsible.
This ugly culture which originated in 2007 from the centre of corruption in Nigeria – Lagos, has seen virtually all former governors in Nigeria (the only exception being former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, who rejected the idea) using their rubber stamp states house of assembly to commit their states to laws which guarantees them to outlandish pensions as well as opulent burials when they die. What has been happening since then is that various state assemblies have continued to borrow the template used by the then Lagos State House of Assembly which went out of its way to authorise a sickeningly generous retirement package for the then-outgoing governor, Bola Tinubu who is now incidentally President-elect.
Read Also: Wike’s Dashed Hopes And The History Of Abandoned Governors
Acting on Tinubu’s express instructions, the House of Assembly passed a law that handed down a largesse which included 6 cars every three years, a house in Lagos worth N750 million, and another in Abuja worth N1 billion, unrestricted access to medical attention, and pensionable cooks, stewards, and gardeners. It didn’t just end there, to ensure that former Governors of the state do not get to miss their positions, they were also entitled to 100 percent annual salaries of the incumbent governor, and 300 percent of annual basic salaries were given to the former governors after every two years. To put more icing on the corrupt cake, security operatives, and police officers were also permanently assigned to them for life!
Since then, Nigerian Governors have been trying to outdo each other on the scale of this abnormality. Rather than seek ways to give back to a state they mindlessly looted and stole from, they are determined to steal from it till the day they stop breathing. It is not only wicked, it is barbaric, anachronistic, brazen, and unpatriotic.
Agonising data from the Debt Management Office have shown that 18 States with outgoing Governors in Nigeria will be bequeathed with debts to the tune of N3.06 trillion debt by their outgoing governors when the N2.27 trillion domestic, and $1.71 billion in foreign loans are brought into consideration. Notwithstanding the prevailing poverty and economic crunch, 17 of these governors (among the 18) are warming up to receive outrageous statutory pensions and other perks, including mansions, luxury cars, allowances, security, and vacation. Any human being with an active conscience will find it extremely depressing to process this or to fathom its rationale.
These Governors have clearly demonstrated that for them, getting to public office was an opportunity to serve themselves and not the populace. Their insatiable nature is always expressed in their greed and culture of entitlement which pushes them to maintain a luxurious life in public office at the expense of the state they govern, a lifestyle they wouldn’t have dreamt of experiencing if they didn’t manage to gain public office. Not even the comfortable salaries and allowances as well as the severance gratuity which is fixed by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission have forced these bunch of heartless governors and their useless deputies to have a change of heart.
Among all the outgoing Governors who would cease to be Governors on the 29th of May, the case of Benue State is one of the most pathetic. A few weeks ago, Governor Samuel Ortom sent a backdated proposal of a former governor’s pension bill to the State House of Assembly and asked his lackeys in the house to give the bill the utmost priority.
The bill which is pending before the Benue state house of assembly when passed will give Ortim and other ex-governors four new cars every four years, an equivalent of governors’ monthly salary and annual vacation abroad, and many other outrageous benefits. While Ortom smiles to the bank every month after he leaves office, Benue state will continue its painful struggles with poverty, insecurity, and kinds of labour agitation which is a resultant effect of poor workers’ remuneration and welfare. Ortom who was an abysmal failure in office will be leaving behind a domestic debt of N141 billion, an external debt of $30 million and an IGR that sees the state earn less than N8 in a year as his legacies. While Ortom and his deputy are smiling to the bank to confirm receipt of their lifetime salaries running into billions, doctors in the state will be somewhere gnashing their teeth as they are currently being owed between eight and 12 months’ salaries., For teachers in the state, the story is the same because, despite their meagre salaries, Ortom has not paid them for the past 10 months. For pensioners who dedicated over 30 years of their lives serving the state in different capacities, they have completely been abandoned as they have not been paid for 30 months.
It is worth mentioning that in states such as Kwara, Zamfara, and Imo where members of the opposition and the civil society were proactive, those laws have abolished such laws. However, Rivers, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Kano, Jigawa, Cross River, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Benue, Taraba, Niger, Kebbi, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina, Sokoto, and 15 others have sworn to ensure that their states do not breath. How can Governors who steal mindlessly from a state for eight years or less appropriate for themselves pensions that a civil servant will never dream of even if they saved every dime they were paid while in active service?
Sadly, the same madness is also going on at the federal level where former military heads of state, and civilian presidents and their deputies are currently entitled to pensions of N350,000 and N250,000 for monthly upkeep, a house each, and office, among other perks as spelt out in Remuneration of Former Presidents and Heads of State and other Ancillary Matters Act 2004.
In the 2023 budget, about N13.8 billion was earmarked for pensions in the budget proposals for former presidents, Vice presidents, heads of state, chiefs of general staff, retired heads of service, and others.
As they prepare to leave office, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo will be paid their cumulative hardship allowance for their eight-year stay in office which has soared up to N651 million. For the 36 state governors, their hardship allowance will be amounting to N319 million each. If this is not insanity, then what else is it? Between these inept leaders and the over 133 million Nigerians who leave below the poverty line, who deserves hardship allowance?
To make matters worse, most of these Governors also manipulate their way into the Senate from where they also draw salaries and allowances from Nigerian coffers. It is evident and manifestly clear that these Governors do not have any iota of conscience in them and they do not mean well for the states they claim to love.
It is still unclear from where Nigerian politicians copied this madness from. The United States whose democracy the country copied does not carry out this manner of grand theft. Granted that former United States presidents may be eligible for a pension based on the Former Presidents Act, which provides a range of benefits to ex-presidents, including a pension, travel expenses, and an office and staff. However, such a pension is subject to income tax, and it is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. It is a no-brainer to carry out this magnitude of injustice against people who the same government made deliberate efforts to impoverish.
In conclusion, it is high time opposition lawmakers in various states of assemblies, civil society, and an active citizenry begin to make determined efforts to end this insanity. If pensions must be paid to some good-for-nothing former Governors, they should be adjusted to reflect the prevailing fiscal realities in the country. Indeed, it smacks of insensitivity and irresponsibility for former governors to commit wickedness against states that gave them everything by draining billions of naira every year from monies supposed to be used to develop those states and their people. This mindless plunder of scarce resources has prevailed for too long and has to be stopped or reviewed. If Nigeria is to make any headway, it has to start at the top by reducing the cost of governance and bringing down the intoxicating spoils of high office in Nigeria.