Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has approached the Federal High Court to compel 36 state governors to publish details of payment of pensions to former governors between 1999 to 2019.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/19/2020 filed last Friday in Abuja by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, SERAP sought for “a declaration that the failure of 36 state governors to provide SERAP with the requested information on pension law in their respective states as requested constitutes a breach of SERAP’s right under the FoI Act, 2011, and for such further order(s) the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
The organisation is also asking for the amount paid to “other ex-officials, the names and number of ex-governors and other officials receiving pensions under the 36 states respective pension laws between 1999 and 2019.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel the 36 state governors to publish names and number of former governors and officials that have received pensions and the total amounts received between 1999 and 2019 and have at the same time served and/or serving as members of the National Assembly.”
SERAP on December 9, 2019 sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to 36 governors, arguing that life pensions to former governors amounted to using public funds “to advance private interests” as well as “the misuse of legitimate discretion for improper reasons, and has created a more cynical public view of politics and politicians.”No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
The suit comes on the heel of the landmark judgment delivered recently by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordering 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 pensions.
SERAP said only Delta and Kwara governors, Ifeanyi Okowa and Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, have responded to its FoI requests, though they failed to commit to halting payment of pension to their former governors.
SERAP said Kwara governor provided a copy of the pension law and list of former governors and ex-officials receiving pensions, while Delta governor directed his Head of Service to send the details requested.