several serving senators and ministers are receiving salaries and life pensions running into billions of naira from states currently unwilling or unable to pay their workers’ salaries
A non-governmental organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has again raised the question of the legality of the double pay being earned by former governors and their deputies either as senators or as ministers.
In a letter dated July 14, 2017 and signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP gave the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Abubakar Malami, a seven day ultimatum to institute a legal action to recover what the NGO claims is “over N40 billion earned in double payment by the former governors.”
The fresh question is coming ahead of the final hearing on September 24, 2017, at the Federal High Court, Abuja in a case by 40 non-governmental organisations, seeking an order from Justice Mohammed to recover any pension payments paid to ex-governors or their deputies.
The suit, instituted since 2014, is also seeking a nullification of the various pension laws enacted by some of the state Houses of Assembly and establish that the RMAFC law supersedes any law passed by the state legislatures.
All state governors and Houses of Assembly along with RMAFC and the Attorney-General of the Federation are defendants in the case, Incor Trustees of Human Dev Initiative & 39 others v Gov of Abia & 72 Ors.
In its letter, SERAP stated that, “public interest is not well served when government officials such as former governors, deputies supplement their emoluments in their current positions with life pensions and emoluments drawn from their states’ meagre resources, and thereby prioritising their private or personal interests over and above the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”
SERAP alleged that Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki (Kwara); Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara), are among former governors receiving double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states.
Others are Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); George Akume (Benue); Ms Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti); Enyinaya Harcourt Abaribe (Abia); Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Chris Ngige (Anambra); and Babatunde Fashola (Lagos).
SERAP urged Malami to use his “good offices as a defender of public interest” to urgently institute legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, who are now senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.”
The organization also asked Malami to “seek full recovery of over N40 billion of public funds that have so far been received from those involved; and to begin to take these steps within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel the discharge of constitutional duty and full compliance with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations and commitments.”
SERAP stated that it “considers double emoluments for serving public officials unlawful, as the laws granting those benefits take governance away from the arena of public interest, and create the impression that former governors acted contrary to the best interests of the general public. Double emoluments and large severance benefits for former governors now serving public officials constitute a blatant betrayal of public trust.”
The organisation “is concerned that several serving senators and ministers are receiving salaries and life pensions running into billions of naira from states currently unwilling or unable to pay their workers’ salaries.”