Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and 13 other former Governors in the 10th Senate to disclose the total amount of life pensions, if any, that they have been received from their States after leaving office.
SERAP is also urging the 14 former Governors to “promptly clarify if you have collected and/or currently collecting life pensions as former governors from your respective states, to stop collecting any such pensions and return the pensions collected to the treasury.”
In the letter dated 3 June 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Your constitutional oath of office, under the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) requires you to publicly reject and return any pensions.”
SERAP explained that “’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, read 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 pension as a former governor of Kwara State and described life pensions by former governors as “immoral”, following a request by SERAP.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you and other members of the Senate to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The country’s international legal obligations especially under the UN Convention against Corruption also impose a legal commitment on public officials including former governors in the Senate to discharge a public duty truthfully and faithfully.
“Life pensions for former governors serving as senators are entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the constitutional oath of office and the object and purpose of the UN Convention against Corruption, which implicitly prohibits large severance benefits for public officials such as former governors.
“The convention specifically in paragraph 1 of article 8 requires you to promote integrity, honesty and responsibility in the management of public resources.
“Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo in a judgment dated 26 November, 2019 also indicated that double emoluments for former governors are unacceptable, unconstitutional and illegal.
“SERAP is concerned that despite receiving in recent years trillions of Naira from the federation account, several states have failed to provide access to quality education to millions of poor Nigerian children.
“The public funds spent by these states on life pensions for former governors can be well spent to address the problem of 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.
“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.”