South-South residents kick against jumbo pensions for ex-governors, deputies
Some residents of the South-South have criticized the payment of outrageous pensions to governors and their deputies after serving the nation for a maximum of eight years.
The people expressed their dissatisfaction with the practice in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), saying it was against the interest of the people.
Comrade Henry Ekini, the National Legal Adviser to the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), condemned the payment of huge pensions to governors and their deputies.
Ekini who described it as being against the interest and a disservice to the poeple, called on State Assemblies to repeal such laws.
He said it was unfortunate that some governors, few weeks to their exit from office, influenced astronomical increase in pensions and other benefits for themselves and their deputies.
“It is unfortunate that one aspect of governance that we haven’t gotten right is the undermining of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) by politically exposed persons.
“The governors, anticipating their exit from office, work with state lawmakers to amend pension such laws where they exist or enact one, appropriating unto themselves huge amounts of money as pensions and allowances,” he said.
The human rights activist said it was wrong for governors and other politicians to alter the provisions of existing pension laws and appropriate unto themselves excessive sums of money as exit packages.
“This is unfortunate and quite condemnable.
“The action of some of these outgoing governors is not justifiable by law, and as such, actions should be taken to stop it,” he added.
On last minute rush by some governors to award contracts, offer employments and secure loans, among others, Ekini said that they had the constitutional right to do so.
He said the constitution gave a term of four years to the president and governors who have rights to carry out their official functions in whatever direction and time they deemed fit.
“Barring any other decision of the constitution that would have limited the term of that governor in the case of death, resignation and impeachment etc., nothing can be done about it.
“This means that the governor or president can perform his or her constitutional duty until that particular day that makes it four years from the day he or she took the oath of office.
“They can award contracts, make large scale employment and secure loans etc. They can perform these duties until the moment proceeding the handover to their successors,” he said.
The legal practitioner said such actions taken by some outgoing governors were valid in the eyes of the law.
“However, considering the exigency of government and knowing that some of these actions are done for purely political purposes, they usually constitute a talking point,” he added.
On his part, the Country Director, International Training, Research and Advocacy Project, Dr. McFarlane Ejah, said in Calabar that incoming governors were not bound to uphold the “unplanned dying-minute” recruitments and promotions approved by their predecessors.
Ejah expressed this opinion at the heels of Gov. Ben Ayade’s offer of automatic employment to 155 pioneer graduates of the West African Construction and Fabrication Academy, Calabar.
The outgoing Cross River governor also on May 1 lifted the embargo on promotion of workers in the state, many of whom had not been promoted since 2014.
The development consultant told NAN that recruiting and promoting workers at the twilight of Ayade’s administration made no sense because he was simply piling up wage bill for the incoming government.
“If you are a governor and for eight years you did not promote or recruit workers and few weeks to leaving office, you want to employ and promote, who are you leaving the liabilities for?
“Promotion comes with financial implications and no new administration is bound to uphold such promotions or recruitment if they were not properly and realistically carried out.
“The new government just needs to come in, look at the recruitment and promotions, set up a committee that will review the process and advice it properly,” he said.
He also added that arranging a huge severance package for an outgoing governor was not acceptable because it amounted to stealing at the expense of the people.
Also, a civil servant in the state, Mr Adams Otu, said that although he received information that workers’ promotion would be implemented, he no longer believed the governor.
“I was due for promotion in 2017 and many others too. But why is it these last weeks of the governor’s tenure that he decided to promote us so that the incoming governor will bear the burden?
“You cannot lift an embargo when you have less than a month as governor. It invariably means you are putting the wage bill on the incoming government and we cannot applaud you for that.
“If the governor had the interest of workers at heart, he should have done so years before the end of his administration, but he chose to appoint over 6,000 political aides to sing his praises’” he said.
In Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital, some residents said that Gov. Udom Emmanuel’s silence on the law establishing staggering pensions for governors and their deputies was a mark of support for it.
A public servant, Dr Phil Ukeme, said that although Emmanuel performed “reasonably well”, he ought to have seen to the amendment of the pension law to reduce the amount.
“Nigerians all over the world are crying out against the law. Outgoing governors shouldn’t earn such outrageous benefits,” he said.
Also, Mr Mike Udofia, an Uyo-based project development expert, said it was wrong for the outgoing governor to embark on a 10 million dollar real estate investment in Atlanta, USA.
He described the investment as ill-timed and unnecessary.
”It is not viable for the governor to invest in a property outside the country a few weeks to the end of his administration.
”It is difficult to believe that the property was purchased in the interest of the people.
”Why did the government not invest in the construction of affordable houses for workers,” he asked.
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Ini Ememobong, has said that the governor is not indulging in any last minute administrative recklessness and power display.
”The governor is using his final days in office to inaugurate completed people-oriented projects, he said.
On his part, the National Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria, USA (AKISAN), Michael Asuquo, described the real estate investment by the outgoing governor as a good one.
Asuquo said that the investment in Atlanta, Georgia, would earn huge revenue to the state.