Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, chairman and deputy chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), respectively, and other 34 governors urging them to use their leadership position to urgently disclose details of payment of pensions to their predecessors and other ex-officials between 1999 and 2019 under their state’s pension law, and to provide a copy of the said pension law.
SERAP is also urging each of the 36 governors to provide information on whether any such pension law exists in their various states and if so, to provide names and number of ex-governors and other ex-officials receiving pensions and to publicly commit to repealing the law, and to pursue recovery of funds collected under the pension law.
In the letter dated October 9, and signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Public officials should not encourage, sustain, or implement jumbo pension laws that show an appearance of conflict of interest, impropriety or create situation of personal enrichment. The pension law negates the duty to act honestly and to represent the needs and concerns of the people, and to refrain from activities, which interfere with the proper discharge of public functions.
“Any such pension law also represents the use of public office to advance private interests at the expense of some public interest, suggests the misuse of legitimate discretion for improper reasons, and has created a more cynical public view of politics and politicians.”
SERAP’s FoI request read in part: “Repealing any such pension law would demonstrate your commitment to public service and the requirements of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). It would show that you would not tolerate the use of public office in a manner which ignores the public interest in order to achieve personal advantage.
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the FoI Act to compel you to comply with our request.
“Pension law for former governors and other senior ex-officials represents a conflict with the constitutional and legal conflict code of conduct for public officials, and would seem to prioritise private interest of former state officials over and above the public interest and public duties of state governors.The duties on public officials including governors flowing from their position as trustees to the public also include the duty to refrain from activities which interfere with the proper discharge of their functions, and the duty not to place themselves in a position where public duty conflicts with private interest.”
SERAP’s request is coming on the heels of the landmark judgment delivered last week by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordering the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami, to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.
The judgment followed the invalidated pension law for former governors and other ex-public officers in Zamfara State, which provided for the upkeep of ex-governors to the tune of N700 million annually. The state has produced three former governors since 1999.