Stakeholders in the South West, have kicked against laws granting life pension for former governors and their deputies, a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey has revealed.
The stakeholders interviewed in Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara, said the laws on life pension were unacceptable to majority of Nigerians. They said there was no justification for the passage of the law bestowing the governors and their deputies life pensions, but a former deputy governor of Ogun, Sen. Adegbenga Kaka, told NAN that the pension was necessary to sustain the status of such political office holders after leaving office. He confirmed that the policy existed in Ogun, adding that he was a beneficiary of the monthly pension, which according to him, is the basic salary of the incumbent governor.
The former deputy governor described the arrangement as a means of sustaining the former governors and their deputies so that they would not live in penury after office.
“Once there is all these types of pensions for the governors and the deputy governors, then the tendency is that they will not be afraid of the future to now compromise the ethics of that status while in office or anytime. By so doing, they don’t need to steal and they don’t need to be crooked in order to insure against their future,” he said.
Kaka, however, raised objection to the idea of “bogus amount” as pensions for the former governors and their deputies.
“If some people work for 35 years and we know what their pension is, then to award extraneous bonuses to former office holders is not just good enough. To award basic salary of the incumbent may be tolerable but those who are now saying one house in Abuja, one in your state and every three years, you change your vehicles, that is totally absurd and I think it shouldn’t be so at the expense of the taxpayers,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Olu-Alade , Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Abeokuta branch, said such policy runs contrary to the 1999 constitution as amended, which stipulates that a pensioner must have worked for at least 10 years and must be up to 45 years of age.
“Going by this provision, no governor or president is qualified for a life pension since none work beyond eight years,” he said.
Dr. Adebayo Oni, chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), condemned the payment of life pensions to ex-governors and their deputies.
Oni described such arrangement as illegal, saying that “life pensions is meant only for those who have served for a minimum of 10 years”.
Corroborating this, Mr Dare Olukosi, Company Secretary, Nigerian Life and Pensions Consultants (NLPC), said the Pension Reform Act of 2004 had changed the Nigerian pension system from defined benefits to defined contributions.
He said the implication of the reform was that private and public sector workers could only be entitled to a pension from the funds they contributed while in active pensionable work.
Olukosi opined that payment of pensions for for governors and their deputies would plunge Nigeria back into the challenges it faced on pensions before the 2004 pensions reforms when government was solely responsible for funding of pensions.
He recalled that the situation then created a huge financial burden for the government which later resulted in long delays or outright failure to pay pensions of many retirees.
Meanwhile, a cross section of civil servants in Oyo state described life pension for former governors and their deputies as selfish and reckless.
One of the respondents, a deputy director, said a situation whereby Oyo state finds it difficult to implement new minimum wage and execute masses’ oriented projects such as infrastructure development, should be of concern of people- friendly government.
He decried reckless spending of public funds by political office holders at the detriment of the state workforce and the masses in general, saying such life pension for former governors and deputies was greatly contributing to the nation’s economy woes.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara, Dr. Rex Olawoye said political office holders including former governors and their deputies were only entitled to severance allowance at the expiration of their tenure.
According to him, such severance allowance is paid once and for all, adding that payment of pension to governor or deputy governor is unknown to the constitution of the country.
Dr. AbdulGaffar Arikewuyo of the Department of Mass Communication of the University of Ilorin described life pension for former governors and deputy governors as selfish.
He observed that the controversy was generated by some states who forwarded bills seeking to amend the law on pension for former governors and their deputies, adding that the move was wrong.
“I am totally against this bill for many reasons. The governors and their deputies are there to serve us. We have been clamouring for the issue that politicians should not take politics as a full time job. Majority of our politicians will not only look at what is the immediate benefit, but will begin to also pay attention to future benefits,” he said.