Paul Obi in Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, wednesday distanced himself from the controversy surrounding double payment of salaries and emoluments to former political office holders such as former governors, senators and ministers.
The move by the minister to exonerate himself came amid accusation by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) that several ministers and senators were still receiving salaries and pensions running into billions of naira from states’ coffers.
Labour has argued then that its “revulsion stems from the fact that most, if not all of these ex-governors, coerced or seduced their various Houses of Assembly into approving for them these bogus and illegitimate pension rates and property ( such as cars and houses) in contravention of the extant laws and regulations by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
“They are mindlessly drawing these allowances (that they do not need) from our commonwealth when the states are in serious financial difficulty, and poverty is rife in the land. They get paid regularly whether the state can afford it nor not.”
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing and former Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola (SAN); Minister of Transport and former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Ameachi; Senate President Bukola Saraki and others have been mentioned as beneficiaries of such emoluments.
Contrary, Ngige yesterday in Abuja told journalists that since leaving office, as governor of Anambra State, he has not received any salary or severance from the state.
“It is my considered opinion that I respond in the public interest to the issue of double emoluments to former state governors, which has drawn sustained media discuss, and no less negative reactions from a cross section of Nigerians.
“I am doing this, being fully aware of the relevant sections of the law, public morality and the prevailing ethos of honest and transparent leadership which the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is battling to enthrone. It therefore becomes imperative for me to explain my own circumstance as I neither draw from nor have at any time drawn double emoluments, having been elected or appointed into public service positions at different times,” Ngige said.
He added that: “It is on record, since I left office in 2006 as governor of Anambra State, through the four years I spent in the seventh Senate (June 2011 to 2015) and currently as the Minister of Labour and Employment with effect from November 11, 2015, I have never drawn a dime even in the intervening period that I was not in public office, as salary, emolument or pension from the state government coffers.
“In fact, I have not received any severance benefit as prescribed in the state House of Assembly law on pensions and other welfare and benefits for former governors and deputy governors 2006 and amended in 2013. Aside the two Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) given to me some years ago, I have not accessed any of the privileges and other lawful trappings due to the office.
“It is worth stating here that the Supreme Court affirmed that I was entitled to these benefits in their landmark judgment in Mike Balonwu and others vs Anambra State Government which declared me governor, de-facto and dejure between 2003 and 2006.
“This explanation has become more necessary because of the calls and enquiries I have been receiving from so many quarters especially my friends and even from my new constituency, the labour. The ultimate aim of public office is service to the people, and putting the public conscience in mind is the only way to achieve it. This I will continue to pursue.”