Nigerians have commended Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s plan to abolish a law which provides for the payment of hefty pension and other entitlements his predecessors and deputy governors of Lagos State.
During the presentation of next year’s N1.155 trillion “Budget of Rekindled Hope” to the state House of Assembly on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, SanwoOlu made it clear that the pension law in Lagos has got to go.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos Governor on New Media, Jubril Gawat, said Sanwo-Olu “has announced his intention, through executive bill, to repeal the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies.”
Pensions and entitlements to former governors are a strain on the Lagos economy, the governor has restated.
The Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law No 11 Official Gazette of Lagos State, 2007 states that former governors of the state are entitled to a house each in any location of their choosing in Lagos and Abuja.
Section 2 of the law states that, “One residential house each for the governor and the deputy governor at any location of their choice in Lagos State and one residential house in the Federal Capital Territory for the governor on two consecutive terms.”
The law also provides for six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7m per annum), as well as free health care for himself and members of his family.
The law also states that former governors will be entitled to furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3m); house maintenance allowance, which is 10 percent of basic salary (N778, 296); utility allowance, which is 20 percent of the salary (N1.5m) and car maintenance allowance, which is 30 percent of the annual basic salary (N2.3m).
Other benefits include entertainment allowance, which is 10 percent of the basic salary (N778, 296) and a personal assistant, who will earn 25 per cent of the governor’s annual basic salary (N1.9m).
A former governor in Lagos is also entitled to eight police officers and two officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) for as long as he lives. Reacting to the development, National President of the Centre for Human and Socio-economic Rights (CHSR), Mr Alex Omotehinse, said that the step was long overdue, to reduce cost of governance for the benefit of residents.
Omotehinse said: “We appreciate the governor for his pro-people move. It is in the best interest of Lagos residents.
“There is abject poverty in the land, there is huge hunger and many people are finding things really hard now.
The cost of governance has really deprived so many citizens of the dividends of democracy. What SanwoOlu intends to do is welcome, but there are still so many holes to be blocked for people to get happiness in this democracy.”
Meanwhile, Nigerians have given kudos to the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for yesterday announcing a plan to outlaw the tradition of jumbo pension payments to former state chief executives and their deputies.
However, some social media gleanings dismissed it as a populist tokenism specifically targeted to soothe frayed nerves over the authorities’ suspicious handling of the #EndSARS affairs, which has seen the government recently clamping down on organisers.
Former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, felt the Governor had moved in the right direction on a rash of payments largely regarded as unjustified.
According to Comrade Popoola Ajayi, Publicity Secretary of the United Action for Change (UAC), the Governor’s move resonated with longstanding criticism and agitations for the halting of such payments.
Sanwo-Olu had on Tuesday, during his presentation of the 2021 budget, informed the Lagos State House of Assembly of his intention to reduce the cost of governance by repealing the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law 2007), providing for payment of monetary and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies.
The move will signify the end of pensions to former governors of the state: Babatunde Fashola, Bola Tinubu, Akinwunmi Ambode and Lateef Jakande, who each receives a monthly pay of about N1.5 million per month and N18 million annually, with allocations of houses and vehicles.
“It is a good policy. All this payment simply amounted to exploitation of the masses,” the former NUPENG Executive said in a phone chat with Daily Times from Delta State.
According to him, the payment made to former governors was bogus, especially when seen against the backdrop of those like him who devoted their entire lives to a civil service career.
He said, “I who worked in NUPENG for over 20 years, my retirement benefit, my gratuity, was N1.7 million. Conversely, people who just served as Governor for four years will be given two real mansions in Abuja and Lagos or their home state.
They will also get two or three big jeeps, one every four years or so. They are just mad people. They are very unreasonable and very wicked.
Some people should be shot.” Kokori said the payments failed to reflect the reality in the general society characterised by debilitating poverty.
“People are dying in this country from poverty. I am in the village. Do you know what it means to dash N500 to a poor woman in the village? Just give them ordinary N500 or N1,000.
They tell you that they do not have N100 to feed with their family that day,” he lamented.
For him, the Nigerian system was not replicated elsewhere, and went on to cite the example of Mr. Tony Blair, the former Prime of Great Britain, who when embarking on his annual holiday, flew with his wife in the Economy Class of a commercial flight as that was what they could personally cover.
Kokori said, “Nigeria is a mad country. But it is the National Assembly that you should blame.
How can you have a National Assembly that cannot provide checks and balances?
Everything appropriation should be handled by the National Assembly. If the President misbehaves, impeach him.
But they behave like boy-boy to the executive.” Popoola said, “This is a good move from Sanwo-Olu. We have always advocated for these payments to be stopped.
The huge pensions to former governors have no justification. How can you serve for only four or eight years and become perpetually a liability to the public?”
Making a comparison with career civil servants who served for decades in public office, Popoola wondered what special value politicians brought to the public’s benefit.
His words: “What value have they added? We were the ones feeding them for those years they spent in office, four or eight years.
They did not buy fuel, they did not buy food. So what value can they claim they bestowed. Did they add more value than the civil servant that puts in 35 years?
Do they add more value than the ordinary citizen that pays taxes and is even over-taxed?”