Applause has trailed the decision of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to submit a bill to the House of Assembly to abolish pension payments to former governors and deputies of the state.
The executive bill would repeal the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies. He said the move would reduce the costs of governance, as well as signal selflessness in public service.
Governor Sanwo-Olu made the promise during a budget estimate presentation to lawmakers in Lagos yesterday.
“We will be sending an executive bill in a couple of weeks to this honourable House to repeal the pension law.
“This pension law is for pension paid to former public officers such as the former governors and former deputy governors. The repeal of the act is due to the dwindling revenue to the state government’s account,” he said.
According to the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law, former governors and deputies are entitled to jumbo pensions including houses in any location of their choice in Lagos and Abuja, cars, medical treatments and vacation travels
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 health care 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 was signed into law by former governor Bola Tinubu in 2007.
Governor Sanwo-Olu said the repeal bill would soon be sent to the House for approval.
In their separate reactions, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos chapter, the Centre for Human and Socio-economic Rights (CHSR), the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere and the Centre for Anti Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) lauded the move.
Spokes of the APC in Lagos, Seye Oladejo, said there was need to review economic policies to reflect the current realities.
“We all know that right now, the government would want to mobilise whatever revenue available for rebuilding the state; so for us, it is a welcome development. It is advisable that other state governments may want to look at it, depending on the peculiarity of their respective states,” Oladejo said.
His counterpart in Oyo State, Abdul-Azeez Olatunde, said: “It is a matter of Lagos State and not Oyo State. But I don’t have a personal interest. It is dangerous for me to comment on the bill because no other party has ever governed Lagos State, except our party. It is not like Oyo State, where we have had the APC and PDP ruling the state. If I make comment, it may be misinterpreted that I did so because our two progressives governors in the state (Alhaji Lam Adesina 2009-2003 and Senator Abiola Ajimobi (2011 -2019) are dead. So, I don’t want to make any comment.”
But Akeem Olatunji, publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Oyo State, endorsed the decision.
“The unnecessary privileges should be removed from former governors. They are being paid full salaries to the detriment of Lagos State and also to the detriment of people of other states in Nigeria, where ex-governors are paid full salaries. The unnecessary money they are being paid can be channeled to execute developmental projects.”
National President of the CHSR, Mr Alex Omotehinse, said it was in the best interest of Lagos residents even as he urged other states to borrow a leaf from from Sanwo-Olu.
“There is abject poverty in the land, there is huge hunger and many people are finding things really hard now. The cost of governance has really deprived so many citizens of the dividends of democracy.
“What Sanwo-Olu intends to do is welcome, but there are still so many holes to be blocked for people to get happiness in this democracy.”
He said that the CHSR had called for the repeal of the law granting life pensions to ex-governors and their deputies in some states in July, in the light of dwindling economic growth.
“We sent a petition dated July 2, 2020, and addressed to the speaker of the Lagos Assembly and the governor to block this waste during our world press conference. We are happy about the bold move by Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The proceeds can be channeled to give Lagos residents good, clean and drinkable water,” the CHSR president said.
Spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, described the pensions for former governors and their deputies as “so atrocious.”
He said considering what the country is going through following the COVID-19 pandemic and EndSARS protests the country has no choice than to undergo reforms.
Executive Chairman, CACOL, Debo Adeniran, said the Executive Bill was a revolutionary move that will curb wastages in public expenditure.
“If he makes good his promise to send the executive bill to the House of Assembly for the repealing of such humongous benefits for former governors and their deputies, I will love him for that. These governors and their deputies only worked for a maximum of eight years; that is not enough for them to take an amount that is enough to pay almost 100 people for a number of years.”
President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Sam Ohuabunwa would expect other governors follow Sanwo-Olu’s footstep.
“If they do so, that shows they have come to realise that this country is made of the rich, poor and the needy, the hopeful and the hopeless. These former governors don’t need more money to live the rest of their lives. They should be living on goodwill now. If they did well, they should live on goodwill- write books, give talks; they don’t need any pension. Let’s face the fact, paying them pension is over pampering. If you govern for four or eight years you get pension. You can imagine one person getting pension that can take care of a whole community. Those of us who worked for 33 years what did we get? It’s a good idea (to stop their pension). I support it and I hope other states will take a cue.”
A retired professor of Law, Prof Samuel Adegoke, also commended Sanwo-Olu for initiating the Executive Bill.
He advised other state governors to emulate Sanwo-Olu’s plan to stop pension payment for past chief executives. He hoped the governor will channel the money to other sectors.
Former deputy Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly and immediate past Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, also commended the governor of Lagos for taking steps.
“I think Lagos has done well, others should copy. As governor for four years, a former governor should have no reason to collect pension.
“This is the time for social equilibrium. I agree with Lagos State, I commend them. That is leadership by example, others should copy. This is what people want to see to build confidence.”
Mr. Osazee Edigin, a rights activist, also applauded the move.
“That has been what many Nigerians are clamouring for. It is a right step in the right direction. Edo civil societies protested against the payment in 2016 when government agents attacked us. It is something Nigerians are happy are happy for,” Edigin said.
A Lagos doctor, Gabriel Omonaiye said it is positive policy in the right directions.
“It can only mean that after two terms in office, nothing should be expected from the government after leaving the office. However, I cannot say whether the bill is a fallout of the #EndSARS protest, which as a result, both public/private facilities where destroyed.”
In his reaction, former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi asked former governors and deputy governors of Lagos to return pensions collected in the past, stating that it was the only condition for him to support Governor Sanwo-Olu’s initiative.
“I would welcome this as long as all previous beneficiaries are made to return everything they took from the state under this Tinubu law,’’ he tweeted.