Godswill Akpabio

Disclose your life pensions now, SERAP tells Akpabio, Others

SERAP, a civil society organisation has alled on the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and 13 other former governors who are now senators to disclose the amount of life pensions they have received from their respective states.

The organization also requestef that the senators clarify whether they were currently collecting or have collected life pensions as former governors, and urged them to cease collection and return any pensions received to the treasury.

These demands were outlined in a letter dated June 3, 2023, signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

SERAP emphasized that the constitutional oath of office taken by the senators, as stated in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), obliged them to publicly reject and return any pensions.

If the senators fail to meet these demands within seven days of receiving the letter, SERAP stated its intention to pursue legal action in order to compel compliance for the benefit of the public.

The organization highlighted Nigeria’s international legal obligations, particularly under the UN Convention against Corruption, which require public officials, including former governors in the Senate, to fulfill their public duties honestly and faithfully.

The group argued that life pensions of former governors serving as senators contradict the constitutional oath of office and ran counter to the purpose of the UN Convention against Corruption, which implicitly prohibits substantial post-employment benefits for public officials.

SERAP cited paragraph 1 of article 8 of the UN convention, which promotes integrity, honesty, and responsibility in the management of public resources.

The organization referred to a previous judgment by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo on November 26, 2019, which declared double emoluments for former governors as unacceptable, unconstitutional, and illegal.

Furthermore, SERAP expressed concern about the lack of access to quality education for millions of underprivileged Nigerian children, despite the substantial funds received from the federation account by several states in recent years.

It said, “The public funds spent by these states on life pensions for former governors can be well spent to address the growing rate of out-of-school children in the states governed by these former governors.

“Constitutional oath of office requires public officials, including former governors in the Senate to abstain from all improper acts, including collecting life pensions that are inconsistent with the public trust and the overall objectives of the Constitution.

“A false oath lacks truth and justice. The oath statements require the oath takers to commit to uphold and defend the Constitution.

“Public function means activities in the public interest, not against it. The alleged collection by former governors of life pensions from their respective states amount to private self-interest. It is also detrimental to the public interest.”

The letter further reads in part: “Nigerians expect you to act in the public interest including by ending the collection of any life pensions from your respective states and returning any such pensions that may have been collected to the treasury.

“Collecting life pensions as former governors while in the Senate would clearly violate constitutional provisions and amount to taking advantage of entrusted public positions.

“Ending the practice of former governors in the Senate collecting life pensions from their states would improve public confidence in the integrity and honesty of the National Assembly. It would show that the Senate can focus on serving the public interest rather than looking after themselves.

“We urge you to emulate former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki who stopped collecting life pensions as a former governor of Kwara State and described life pensions by former governors as “immoral”, following a request by SERAP.

“SERAP also urges you to redirect any life pensions collected to fund and facilitate access of poor Nigerian children in your state to quality education, to reduce the number of out-of-school children.

“According to our information, there are fourteen former governors in the 10th Senate who may be collecting life pensions running into billions of naira from their respective states.

The former governors are: Godswill Akpabio (Akwa-Ibom State); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo State); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State); Dave Umahi (Ebonyi State); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State); and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger State).

“Others are: Ibrahim Danwkambo (Gombe State); Danjuma Goje (Gombe State); Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara State); Gbenga Daniel (Ogun State); Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto State); Orji Kalu (Abia State); Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe State); and Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State).”

“The states currently implementing life pensions for former governors reportedly include Akwa-Ibom, Abia, Edo, Jigawa, Niger, Kebbi, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Benue, Gombe, Yobe, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina, Rivers, and Delta. Many of these states owe workers’ salaries and remain the poorest in the country.

“SERAP notes that under Akwa Ibom Life Pension law [as amended] a former governor is entitled to an annual pay of N200 million, two official vehicles with chauffeurs, furniture allowance of 300 per cent of basic salary replaceable every four years, an aide, a cook, and lifetime security guards worth N5 million monthly for ex-governors and N2.5 million for their deputies.’’

SERAP pointed out that there is also state-sponsored annual medical service of about N100 million for ex-governors and their spouses and N50 million for the ex-deputy governors, five-bedroom mansions in Abuja and Akwa Ibom.

‘’Other benefits include: 300 per cent annual basic salary as ‘severance gratuity’, 300 per cent of annual basic salary for ‘car maintenance’; 100 per cent of annual basic salary for ‘entertainment’; and 100 per cent of annual basic salary for ‘utility.

“In Abia State, a former governor is entitled to 100 per cent of the salary of the incumbent. Benefits for former governors include an official car, a police orderly, two operatives of two police men for the security of his house and allowances for cooks, stewards, driver and gardener.

“In Gombe State, there is N300 million executive pension benefits for the ex-governors. An ex-governor is also entitled to a 30-day paid travel expenses annually to any country of his choice alongside his wife, so also the deputy governor and his wife.

“A former governor is also entitled to two utility cars, while his deputy is entitled to one car to be replaced periodically. Both the governor, deputy governor and their wives are entitled to paid medical treatment at home or abroad,’’ SERAP noted.

It pointed out that in Sokoto State, former governors and deputy governors are to receive N200m and N180m respectively being monetization for other entitlements which include domestic aides, residential and office accommodation and vehicles replaceable every four years.

“According to the 2013 life pension law, the pension should be charged upon the consolidated revenue fund of the state. Former governors and their deputies are also entitled to other privileges, such as free medical treatment for themselves, their spouses and biological children both within and outside the country. They are also entitled to the payment of all their utilities, such as electricity and water bills.

“Under the life pension law in Jigawa, former governors are entitled to the same salary as the incumbent, two vehicles replaceable every four years, a six-bedroom apartment, furnished office, two personal assistants not below grade level 10, and two drivers.

“In Edo State, former governors and their deputies are entitled to a house in any location of their choice, pension for life at 100 per cent of their last salary, three brand new cars after five years, drivers, domestic members of staff, medical bills for them and their immediate families, amongst many other benefits.

“Paragraph 2 (a) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers in the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 provides: ‘Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing paragraph, a public officer shall not receive or be paid the emoluments of any public office at the same time as he receives or is paid the emoluments of any other public office.

“In the Seventh Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution, you commit to strive to “preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution”, [and to] perform your “functions honestly, faithfully”, to act “always in the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria.

“You also commit “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Nigeria; and abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on details of life pensions so far received by you.

“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) and (4) of the FoI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information including information on including information on details of life pensions so far received by you are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.”

The separate letter sent to Senate President Akpabio, also reads in part: “SERAP notes that in your acceptance speech on your election as the president of the 10th Senate, you expressed the commitment to ensure that ‘our actions protect and guarantee the best and most efficient use of our national commonwealth.

“You also expressed commitment to put the aspirations and well-being of the Nigerian people at the heart of everything we will do in this Senate,” and to provide “an uncommon leadership”, as well as ensure “efficient and ethical country.”