Time To Legislate On Gratuities And Pensions For Governors And Legislators

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By

Coker Onita

As Nigerians enter the twilight of another National Assembly, nay, the Ninth Assembly, we should begin to remind ourselves on the need to take stock and gird our loins.

Oh, yes! We need to do appraisals, subject the legislators (or legislooters as social media calls them) to intense scrutiny. How much are they carting away from the national treasury this time again. Put another way, how much have they approved for themselves as terminal benefits and entitlements? Call them pension and gratuity. We should compare their performance with those before them and, hopefully, project into the future.

We should watch how they tidy up their books and, most importantly, their attitude to payment of pension and gratuity. Like in the past, are they preparing humongous benefits for themselves? Do they intend to make a “final kill” before leaving the scene in perquisites and take-home pay?

In the past, some national and state assembly members reserved for themselves ridiculous benefits. The same thing went for executive governors and their aides. It must be noted that the maximum number of years they spent in office is eight years, making two terms.

In Lagos State for example, the emoluments for retired and retiring governors and their deputies are not only frightening, they are outright unreasonable.

At the twilight of his administration in 2007, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, then Executive Governor of Lagos State and now Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), prepared himself adequately for his exit. His take-home emoluments include the provision of two brand new houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja, a huge string of perquisites designed to guarantee continued safety, comfort and adequate well-being of himself and his family.

Not so for career civil servants, who at the end of serving for 35 or more years, wallow in poverty and neglect. Some die on the queue while trying to collect the stipend or for inability to find money to procure drugs. The teachers are worst hit in this terrible nightmare.

The case of former governors who found their way back to the Upper Chamber, the Senate, or as Federal ministers, is worthy to be mentioned. Many of them now use this as retirement joints where they come to relax their frayed nerves. They even doze off during legislative sessions.

What seems paradoxical and ridiculous is the payment of humongous retirement benefits as governors and full-time salaries to these governors-turned-senators. Do you say, what is wrong with that? Believe me, it is not only morally reprehensible, it is condemnable. No wonder, some states in the Federation are seriously in debt and unable to meet their salary obligations to their workers. It is heartbreaking, for example, that some states of the Federation are still unable to pay the N30,000 monthly minimum wage to their workers.

The governors, before leaving office, cajole their state “legislooters” to pass pension laws meant to protect their future loots. Such laws empower the governors and their deputies to collect emoluments in the neighbourhood of N300 million, depending on how buoyant the state is.

The law enables the governors and their deputies to draw pensions for life at a rate equivalent to 100 percent of their last annual salary, and the pension would be charged to the Consolidated Fund.

Former governors are also to own three brand new vehicles, to be renewed every five years. The package is accompanied by three drivers, whose salaries are paid by the state government. There are, also, free medical services for the ex-Excellency and his ex-First Family.

Such obnoxious and wasteful allotments breach the Pension Reforms Act of 2014. The Nigerian Pension Commission (PENCOM), released in 2016, shows that 24 out of 36 states of the Federation are yet to comply with the Act. They are yet to establish the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).

The time to visit this vicious and wicked thievery of our leaders is now. We need more public advocacy that draws attention to this heinous act. No society moves forward where her leaders do not see selfishness, greed, corruption and embezzlement in high places as condemnable.

The collusion between governors and legislators should stop forthwith. These current National Assembly members should take the bull by the horn and put legislation in place to end this perfidy.

FORMER EDITOR OF PRIME PEOPLE AND PUBLISHER/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF TODAY’S CHOICE MAGAZINE (TC), COKER ONITA IS DIRECTOR, INFORMATION AND STRATEGY OF THE ATIKU PEOPLE UNITED (APU).

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