Sanwo-Olu Moves to Abolish Pension for Ex-govs, Deputies


•Proposes N1.155tn budget for 2021

By Davidson Iriekpen and Segun James

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday unfolded a plan to stop the payment of pension to his predecessors and former deputy governors.

He told the House of Assembly while presenting his 2021 Appropriation Bill that he would soon send an executive bill to repeal the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007) that empowers the state government to pay pension and provide other welfare benefits, including houses in Lagos and Abuja, vehicles and other accoutrements of comfort to the former governors and their deputies.

Sanwo-Olu, who proposed an N1.155 trillion estimate to the legislature for approval for the 2021 fiscal year, told the lawmakers that the aim of repealing the law is to free the state government of the legal obligations, saying it is a step to reduce the cost of governance.

The 2021 budget estimates titled: “Budget of Rekindled Hope,” is higher than the 2020 budget by N234.5 billion. The 2020 budget was reduced to N920.5 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world this year.

But this year’s budget proposal is less than the initial 2020 budget of N1.68 trillion by N53.5 billion.

Sanwo-Olu said the 2021 budget has total revenue of N962.528 billion with N795.744 billion coming from internally generated revenue (IGR).

He explained that the budget has a capital expenditure of N703.272 billion and a recurrent expenditure of N451.750 billion.

The 2021 budget will focus on youth employment, security, youth engagement and social work, among others.

According to him, the General Public Services allocation is N136, 278,189,622.39, under which the Science and Technology sector has N28, 272,741,669 and Other General Public Services has N108, 005,447,953.39.

Also, the Public Order and Safety allocation is N32, 757,159,406.85, while the Economic Affairs sector has a proposed allocation of N381, 852,747,856.72.

Under the Economic Affairs´ allocation is Agriculture with N18,311,948,584.57; Commerce, N41,989,851,318.18; Tourism, Art & culture N6,012,710,830.00; Energy and Mineral Resources, N32,585,739,585.09; Transportation, N98,931,628,325.88; Infrastructure – Works Family, N172,238,545,968.00; and Waterfront, N11,782,323,245.00.

The Environment sector has an allocation of N50, 934,105,592.09, comprising of drainage N11, 936,556,866 and other environmental services- N38, 997,548,726.09.

Also, the Housing and Community Amenities sector has N40,280,489,878.68, the Health sector, N118,360,479,650.50 while Recreation, Culture and Religion sector is billed to get N5,170,065,144.74.

The Education sector has a budget allocation of N143,655,493,855.89; the Social Protection sector, N9,156,091,555.64 while the Contingency Reserve (including Special Expenditure – Statewide and Special Expenditure -Others) has N20,554,523,753.69 allocation.

The allocation for Loans (repayments, CDSA & debt servicing) is N166, 215,862,798.26; Personnel Cost (Statewide – Pension etc) N49, 807,203,890.38. All allocations will give a total of N1, 155,022,413,005.82 budget for 2021.

The governor said the budget proposal demonstrated the government´s willingness to overcome all obstacles and deliver on all electoral promises to Lagos residents.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic and #EndSARS protests had only heightened the need to urgently implement the various programmes under the THEMES agenda.

According to him, the 2021 budget will, among others, provide for youth employment by focusing on sectors with job-creating potential like agriculture, construction, technology and security.

He added: “We are set to improve the economic conditions and social safety needed for our youth and all hardworking Lagosians to flourish. We are committing resources to sectors that need to grow for our people to become self-reliant and economically empowered.

“Consequently, for the agricultural sector, our food security plan has a cumulative budget of N22.21 billion while we are committing a cumulative budgetary provision of N311.43 billion to infrastructure.

“This will cover direct intervention through the Ministries of Works and Infrastructure, Water front, Transportation, the Judiciary, our Schools and Seed Capital of N15 billion for The Rebuild Lagos Trust Fund.

“To continue to drive our digitisation strategy, we have committed a total of N37.37 billion investment in technology while in the environment and health services we have committed a total of N48.28 billion and N111.94 billion respectively.

“In line with our urgent need to light up Lagos, we will begin a set of initiatives in the energy sector to ensure the Lagos economy is supported by power, one community at a time. To this, we have committed a total of N32.58billion in the 2021 budget.”

Sanwo-Olu said 2021 Appropriation Bill also aligns with the restoration of economic balance as the state navigates its way out of the negative impact of both the pandemic and the destruction of public assets following the #EndSARS protest hijack.

On youth empowerment, Sanwo-Olu said the state would focus on sectors with job-creating potential like agriculture, construction, technology and security.

“We are set to improve the economic conditions and social safety needed for our youths and all hardworking Lagosians to flourish. We are committing resources to sectors that need to grow for our people to become self-reliant and economically empowered,” he stated.

On the plans to scrap the payment of pensions to former governors and their deputies, Sanwo-Olu said: “Mr. Speaker and honourable members of the House, in light of keeping the cost of governance low and to signal selflessness in public service, we will be sending a draft executive bill to the House imminently for the repeal of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies.

“It is our firm belief that with dwindling revenues and the appurtenant inflationary growth rates, that we need to come up with innovative ways of keeping the cost of governance at a minimum while engendering a spirit of selflessness in public service.”

Lagos State blazed the trail in 2007 when its then Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, at the twilight of his tenure, signed into law a bill earlier passed to provide pension and other welfare benefits to former governors and their deputies beyond the package outlined for former political officeholders nationwide by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

According to the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law, former governors of the state, who completed two terms consecutively, are entitled to a house each in any location of their choice in Lagos and Abuja.

Also, a former governor is entitled to six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7m per annum), free healthcare for himself and members of his family as well as furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3m).
The law also named deputy governors as beneficiaries of vehicles, fully-paid vacation, medical insurance and other juicy perks.

Soon after, other governors started replicating the law in their states.

Due to the current economic crisis facing the country, many of the states and some others had to rely on bailouts from the federal government to pay salaries and pensions.

Following a suit instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, had in a landmark judgment ordered the federal government to “recover pensions collected by former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly, and directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.”

In January, as a sequel to another suit filed by the Taraba State Government against Mr. Garba Umar, a former acting governor of the state, the National Industrial Court had declared as null and void, payment of the controversial jumbo pension and gratuity to former governors and deputies not in harmony with what is fixed by RMAFC.

SERAP Hails Sanwo-Olu’s Move

SERAP yesterday welcomed the move by Sanwo-Olu to scrap the state life pensions for former governors and deputy governors.

SERAP’s Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawole Oludare, said: “This is a welcome development in line with our consistent advocacy on accountability in governance over the years. More particularly, this is in compliance with the judgment of Honourable Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos, in SERAP v. Attorney General of the Federation, mandating the Attorney-General of the Federation to challenge the legality of state pension laws and recover monies paid unlawfully to former governors and their deputies.

“SERAP urges the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to immediately fulfil his promise to enforce the judgment in suit number FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 to recover pensions already collected and challenge the legality of all life pension laws in states across the country.”