There is urgent need to review pension laws as they affect former state executives

The cost of scandalous pension paid by 21 states to some 47 former governors in the last four years has been estimated at over N37 billion. And this is coming at a time when ordinary pensioners in most of these states and at the federal level have not been paid their meagre entitlements regularly for over five years. Moreover, a good number of these ex-governors are either in the Senate or are occupying other high public offices where they draw huge remunerations, thus raising a serious question about the propriety of this naked rape of the treasury. There are also questions, which remain unanswered, as to whether any official can draw two or more remunerations from the public treasuries at the same time.

It is indeed all the more unfortunate that at a period when Nigeria needs men of moral courage in government whose actions are motivated by the public good, we have now found ourselves in a situation where many of our officials are stretching the purse of their states for their own good. To worsen the situation, it is a perfect scam in that these former governors successfully railroaded their states houses of assembly into passing legislations for the scandalous pensions they enjoy at the expense of the ordinary citizens.

It is to say the least condemnable that many of the states with several pressing challenges – from inability to provide shelter and jobs for many of their residents to stalling in payment of pensions to retired teachers for years – can still sanction the indiscriminate awards of its resources to already well-heeled and comfortable citizens. But many of the current governors do not care because they also plan to enjoy such benefits after leaving office.

In a trend that started in Lagos in 2007, practically all former governors (the only known exception being Mr Peter Obi, the former Governor of Anambra State who turned down the idea) have committed their states to write laws which entitle them to lives of luxury outside office as well as opulent burials when they die. Huge mansions were also constructed for them at public expense since the law provides for the governor a befitting palace in the state capital or in the nation’s capital, Abuja, while the deputy governor is entitled to an accommodation allowance equal to 300 per cent of his annual basic salary.

In most of the states, after office, a former governor and his spouse would be entitled to free medical services anywhere at a sum ranging from N100 million to N200 million per annum while the deputy governor will pocket N50 million for same purpose. Both would also be entitled to their current salary for life, which is in excess of N25 million each per annum. In addition they are also entitled to furniture allowances and brand new cars every four years at the tax payers’ expense. Their cooks, chauffeurs and security men – people who will further lighten their burden – are also well provided for.

Since what these governors take in a most cynical manner is public money which further impoverishes the majority of their people, one would ordinarily expect the labour unions to challenge these obnoxious laws and those who implement them. Sadly, we cannot recall any intervention from labour on this issue. This mindless plunder of scarce resources has lasted long enough and has to be stopped or reviewed. If we must develop as a nation, we have to revive those long cherished culture, values and behaviour that once made us so proud to be Nigerians. But it has to start at the top by reducing the intoxicating spoils of high office in Nigeria.