ZAMFARA State House of Assembly recently took a remarkable decision when it repealed the controversial Pension Law that hitherto entitled ex-governors, their deputies, former House Speakers and their deputies outrageous pensions and other entitlements. The House leader, Farouk Musa Dosara, who presented the Bill, urged his colleagues to consider repealing the obnoxious pension law as a matter of urgency and in the best interest of the state and its citizens. According to him, the package in the pension law for erstwhile political office-holders in the state was selfish and without regard to the hardships of serving and retired civil servants in the state. The state spends not less than N700 million annually to settle the pensions of past political officials. The present administration in the state inherited over N10 billion in pension liabilities from the administration of Abdulaziz Yari.
We commend Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle for assenting to the bill, which repealed the pension law. The development came some weeks after Yari wrote a letter to the state government, demanding the payment of his “upkeep allowance,” which had not been paid since August, 2019. In the letter dated October 17, 2019, Yari alleged that since he left office on May 29, 2019, he had only been paid his upkeep allowance twice, June and July. Interestingly, the law, which has now been repealed was enacted by Yari in the twilight of his administration. The law was hurriedly passed by the past state legislature. Before leaving office, the ex-governor reportedly paid himself N300million as severance allowance.
Before the law was repealed last week, any former governor of the state is entitled to two exotic cars, which should be replaced every four years, free medical treatment for self and family members, five-bedroom house in any location of his choice, and 30 days vacation either within Nigeria or abroad, with all expenses paid by the state. The state government has done the right thing by abolishing the reprehensible law. Governor Matawalle has taken the right step. He also gave assurance that the money saved following abrogation of the law would be invested in youth empowerment and development of infrastructure in the state. It takes conviction, commitment and service to the people to do what the Zamfara State government has done. As the governor noted, if the largess has continued in the name of pension and allowances, the state finances would not be enough to service the insatiable appetite of a few greedy ex-political leaders. This is why the cost of governance in the country is rising at a disturbing level across all tiers of government.
It is unfortunate that many former governors are enjoying this largess by arm-twisting their state legislatures to pass such self-serving pension laws that grant them outrageous pension and allowances after leaving office. The states that have the undeserving pension laws are Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Rivers, Gombe, Kano, Sokoto and Kwara states. Zamfara has freed itself from that queer law. Edo State House of Assembly was considering passing the law before the conflict between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, broke out. In all the aforementioned states, it is clear to see the devil in the details of how ex-governors fleece their states.
We recall that in 2007, the Lagos State House of Assembly passed a pension law, which gave former governors of the state a life pension of N30 million per annum. It included a well-furnished mansion in Lagos and Abuja for governors who served two terms, six brand new cars every three years, and sundry allowances. The same weird law ran into a storm in Akwa Ibom State in 2014. In Rivers State, a similar law prescribed 100 per cent of annual basic salaries for ex-governors and deputies, one residential house “anywhere of his choice” in the country. In Gombe, the perks included N300million for ex-governor. In Bayelsa State, it took mass protests for the state governor, Seriake Dickson, to withdraw his assent on the controversial bill passed by the State House of Assembly seeking life pension for lawmakers. To save the rising cost of governance, we call on other states with outrageous pension schemes for ex-governors to emulate the Zamfara example. We believe that giving the ex-governors 300 per cent of basic salary as severance allowance as recommended by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) is fair enough.