Many Nigerian politicians would not hesitate to kill an opponent if that would further the their chances of getting into public office. This is particularly true of governorship candidates. In a number of states, several candidates have, at one time or another experienced assassination attempts, or faced having their residences burnt down. Their supporters also get maimed and killed during election campaigns. In Ogun State stands a stadium named after a businessman/ philanthropist, Dipo Dina. He was shot dead in 2010 just for contesting the governorship. In Lagos, my former neighbour and a man widely referred to as ‘The Gentleman’, Funsho Williams was murdered in his home after he indicated interest in taking a shot at governing Lagos State. Three weeks after Engr Williams was killed, Dr Ayo Daramola, a former World Bank consultant was murdered at his home. He was a governorship aspirant of Ekiti State.
It is certain that the person who would kill others so as to become governor does not do that in order to deliver diligent or selfless service to the people. In the main, people get into high government positions NOT ONLY FOR WHAT THEY CAN GET, BUT FOR ALL THEY CAN GET.
The governor of a Nigerian state is a very powerful individual. His access to wealth enormous. He is both Chief Accountant and Chief Spender of all the resources of state. In fact, funds for the remaining two arms of government are not paid independently but are disbursed through him. He can borrow huge funds using both domestic and external facilities – without any intention of repaying. The funds are collected in the name of his state. Governors have access to the “security vote”, for which there is no requirement that it be accounted for. And once there is a desire to search for “foreign investors”, then estacode is made available on demand to the governor, for foreign travel and tours. The citizens of a lot of these states however go without salaries for many months; some states owe workers for up to one year, before paying. Retired workers often die lined up in queues, waiting to collect their infrequently paid pensions, or waiting for verification- before even thinking of getting their pensions and gratuities. In all of it, their chief executive, while in office leads a lavish lifestyle, whether or not others receive wages, pensions or gratuities.
Meanwhile, the rosy life in office is just THE GOOD PART. THE BEST PART COMES AFTER their term in office! It is then that many Nigerian Governors live it up. In an act unknown to economic principles; whereby the employee fixes his own salary and benefits, very many Governors pay themselves jumbo pensions, salaries and hefty allowances. Governors in 26 out of the 36 states of Nigeria have presented and passed executive bills for laws to be passed for their own stupendous jumbo ‘pension’ packages. The law usually covers their deputies; in some cases, it even extends to the principal officers of the state house of assembly. Expectedly, the Governor demands…..EVERYTHING!
A typical Governor’s pension package will look something like this: ‘befitting’ mansions built for them by the state government in their state capital AS WELL AS in Lagos or Abuja, whichever the Governor chooses (minimum specification is a 5 Bedroom maisonette). Furniture allowance for ‘befitting’ furnishing of aforementioned maisonette ( every 3-4 years, more money must be paid for furnishing). N100 million as gratuity. 100% of current basic salary of the incumbent and deputy i.e. FULL SALARY for former Governors FOR LIFE. Brand new jeeps and Hilux cars , to be replaced every few years (specification: no vehicle less than N15 million in cost, as at 2006). 300% basic salary for car maintenance and 300% of basic salary for utilities. N5 million monthly to pay for a steward, cook, driver, personal aide and security. Female security is required for spouses( or male security, as in the case with spouses of female Deputy Governors!). 100% of basic salary for entertainment. Medical allowances, within the country and overseas for UNSPECIFIED numbers of family members for life . (This applies even to those who have more than one wife!).
Now, apart from seeing to the life of ease of these Governors all through their lives, their pension packages extend TILL EVEN AFTER THEIR DEATHS! And so you have provisions such as: 300% of basic salary to be paid to next of kin upon the death of a former Governor as ‘Condolence Allowance’. An annual sum of N12 million paid to the widow or widower for life( N6m for the spouse of a Deputy Governor). This is all in addition to the already established rule that the state government bears FULL COST of the burial of a former Governor.
What is also incredible in all this is that the revenue allocation commission, the RMAFC already has something in place for former Governors and state chief judges which covers the payment of their domestic staff as well. Additionally, there is a severance allowance of 300% of basic salary for governors. The commission also recommends a regular change of one car. The Police force and the DSS provide paid security for former Governors and their deputies. But today, former Governors receive N10 million minimum monthly from their various state governments, not adding all other allowances and perks.
It is said of Nigeria that this is one of the most expensive democracies in the world, with the bulk of expenses going on running costs.
In all this, it is the states that pay this jumbo pension to their former Governors that rank at the top of the list of states with the highest domestic debts. They also have the highest external debt, of states in Nigeria. It must also be noted that those states post the highest youth unemployment rates. Considering that an estimated 30% of available revenue is spent on maintaining former Governors on average, then there is not much left of the rest 70% to add on new wages. It is shuddering to think of the number of Governors those 26 states have to cater for, with the number continuously rising. In Imo State for instance, that number is put at 15, paid FULL SALARY, running up billions of naira monthly, to maintain just those few. The remaining MILLIONS of citizens of that state, just like those in other states go without basic amenities and very poor health services as their states continue to cater to the increasing demands of those privileged few.
Then came Governor Hope Uzodinma. Just as Nigerians had resigned themselves to their ‘ hopeless’ situation, the Imo State Governor (pleasantly) surprised the nation with his 2020 law repealing pensions for former Governors. In a year of dwindling federal allocation, increase in tariffs and “lockdown” of income- generating economic activity AND NOW recession, this law could not have come at a better time.
In a complete reversal of the trend wherein successive Governors simply add jucier clauses to their pension packages, for greater luxury, Uzodinma put a stop to it all, in Imo. Today, the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo- Olu has given notice to the State House of Assembly of an impending executive bill he is sending in to repeal the law providing for pensions for former Governors.
The Lagos Public Office Holder( Payment of Pension Law 2007) includes paid vacations FOR LIFE, AFTER leaving office. Sanwo-Olu has stressed the need to keep the cost of governance at a minimum.
In repealing the jumbo pensions law, Uzodinma also said something every other educated Nigerian already knew, but which the privileged Governors totally disregarded: that by the constitutional provision, OUTGONE GOVERNORS ARE NOT EVEN ENTITLED TO ANY PENSION! The constitutional minimum for pensions is 10 years in government service; the maximum tenure for an elected governor is 8 years in office. What makes repudiating the law astonishing is that: (a) the law is in the interest of the state and ( b) THE GOVERNOR STANDS TO BENEFIT from the law that he repealed! The second factor especially is the basic consideration of many others, when executive bills are to be made. But Uzodinma not only said it was illegal for former Governors to be paid pensions and gratuities, he has also said he finds it ‘indefensible’ that over one third of the budget would be devoted purely to servicing ex Governors and their deputies. Notably, Uzodinma says the jumbo pensions had “led, for a very long time, to a precedence that does not encourage diligence and prudence in service delivery”. His sentiments are shared by the Lagos State Governor, who told his house of assembly he firmly believes there is a need for innovative ways of “engendering a spirit of selflessness in public service”.
It would be great if the 22 other states repealed their ex- governors’ “pension” laws as well.
–Princess Mikky Attah is a Newscaster, Broadcast Journalist, and Columnist.