Obey order stopping pensions to ex-govs, emulate Otti, SERAP to Tinubu

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has asked President Bola Tinubu to “Immediately obeying the judgment ordering the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors, and to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting those involved to collect such outrageous pensions.”

SERAP urged Tinubu to emulate the good example of governor Alex Otti of Abia State, who has stopped pension by former governors in the state.

Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of a Federal High Court, had followed a suit by SERAP in a judgment on November 26, 2019, ordered the Federal Government to urgently identify former governors and their deputies collecting pensions from their states and to seek full recovery of public funds from those involved.’

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State

Recall that Otti last week signed into law the bill to repeal ‘The Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors Pensions Law No 4 of 2001’, following the passing by the house of assembly. Under the repealed law, former governors and deputy governors in the state were paid lifetime salaries and got houses in Abia and Abuja.

SERAP in a letter by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday, said: “We urge you to emulate the good example of governor Otti by urgently obeying the judgment, something which former president Muhammadu Buhari blatantly failed to do.”

SERAP said, “Unless the judgment is immediately obeyed, former governors and their deputies including those now serving as ministers in your administration and members of the National Assembly who receive pensions would continue to evade justice for their actions.”

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The letter, read in part: “SERAP agrees with former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s conclusion that states’ pension laws are ‘acts of daylight robbery’, and his call for such laws to be abolished by other state governors.

Former Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio and President of the Senate

“Immediately obeying the judgment would show the sovereignty of the rule of law in Nigeria and go a long way in protecting the integrity of the country’s legal system.

“Obeying the judgment would also show you as a defender of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the rule of law, and public interest within government.

“Nigeria’s democracy needs courts so that public officials and private actors including former governors and their deputies collecting life pensions, exotic cars and other allowances from their states can be held accountable for any infraction of Nigerian laws.

“Mr Buhari turned a blind eye to the judgment. State governors have failed to provide names of former governors and their deputies who have collected and continue to collect pensions from their states and the amount so far spent on these ex-officials.

“Constitutionalism and the rule of law are not in conflict with democracy, rather, they are essential to it.

“Justice Oguntoyinbo’s judgment has pointed the way for your government to provide the leadership to ensure the reform of pension laws allowing former governors and their deputies to collect lifetime salaries and allowances.

“It is now time for your government to restore the rule of law systemically.

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“According to our information, those who are reportedly receiving double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states include: Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Theodore Orji (Abia).

“Others are Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (Plateau), and Jonah Jang (Plateau).

“At least 22 states starting from Lagos State have reportedly passed life pensions laws for former governors and other ex-public officials. Other states include Akwa Ibom; Edo; Delta; Ekiti; Kano; Gombe; Yobe; Borno; Bauchi; Abia; Imo; Bayelsa; Oyo; Osun; Kwara; Ondo; Ebonyi; Rivers; Niger; Kogi; and Katsina.

“The 20-page judgment in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 signed by Justice Oguntoyinbo reads in part: ‘The Attorney General has argued that the states’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged. With respect, I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.’

“In my humble view, the Attorney General should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation.

“I have considered SERAP’s arguments that it is concerned about the attendant consequences that are manifesting on the public workers and pensioners of the states who have been refused salaries and pensions running into several months on the excuse of non-availability of state resources to pay them.”

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