By Yusufu Shehu Usman
The issue has gained currency in the public discourse and many people have asked the question several times
“should former governors who have won election to the Senate or are appointed as Ministers in the federal cabinet be entitled to draw from the pension funds of their States while receiving fresh salaries from the National Assembly or the federal government salary scheme?”
This question has become necessary and pertinent in our current dispensation because, many state governors have transisted from being the Chief Executives of their States to Legislators at the national level or have gained appointments as Ministers or heads of other government agencies
It is a known fact (though now apparently countermanded by the recent judgement of the Court of Appeal), that by virtue of the Laws passed by respective Houses of Assembly in many states, governors who served out their terms have been placed on mouth watering life pensions in addition to humongous amounts of money paid to them as severance allowances and parting gifts all from the meagre resources of the states, many of which still find it difficult to pay worker’s salaries.
I have recently read in the press that the court of appeal has faulted the payment of life pension to governors who have successfully served out their tenures.
I must confess that I have not read the judgement my self to know the grounds of the decision but, whatever it may be predicated upon, it makes a lot of sense to me.
It is a known fact that some of the former governors have impoverished the states, some have massively looted the state resources and some have used the state resources as if it was their personal or private funds.
If you take into account the salaries and allowances accruable to state governors while in office, the unhindered and unlimited access they had to the public purse, you would see no justification for putting them in the public pension scheme
For one, a state governor serves for maximum of eight years and a minimum of four.
At the end of either period, he carts away a huge sum of public funds as severance allowance in addition to the immeasurable percusites he enjoyed by reason of his office
The question to ask is what is the threshold for a public officer to be entitled to life time pension?
The civil servant serves the state for thirty five years on very lean salary and a paltry and negligible quantum of allowances before he gets a little percentage of his annual salary as pension.
And indeed, under the pension reform Act of 2004 which brought in the contributory pension scheme at the federal level, the principle of life pension does not appear to enure any more, because the pension is now calculated or computed on annuity basis
This means that it is possible for a civil servant to retire and enjoy pension for as long as the fixed annuity lasts. He may still be alive while he exhausts the amount determined as his pension benefit
If perchance he lives beyond the expectation of the actuaries as a civil servant, he may have to live the rest of his extended life on something else but not pension.
If this is the scenario applicable to a civil servant who spent thirty five years in the service of the government, on what basis can we justify paying life and inexhaustible pension to elected officers who have only served for four years or eight in the maximum?
And to add insult to the injury inflicted on the civil servant, the same elected officer may change from one elective office to another and collect the severance allowance in huge quantum while he moves to the next office and at the end of his service there, he collects another severance allowance. He earns severance allowances for as many times as he severs his services
If he is a Speaker or in some states even a principal officer, he will he gifted a life pension
In one state an attempt was made through legislation to even put any member who has served as a member of the house of Assembly on life pension
In our political system which has a penchant for recycling politicians, some would serve as governors, earn a life pension and later move to become Senators or Ministers and earn salaries and if they fail to return to theLegislature or are dropped as Ministers they will again collect further severance allowances.
If we calculate the sheer quantum of the funds involved in this unfair and unjustified arranged pension in the context of the growing numbers of the beneficiaries, it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that it is a great stress and undue pressure on the meagre financial resources of the states and federal government
It is my opinion that the Revenue Mobilisation Committee should review this anomaly and injustice in the system and enact it as a matter of policy that no elected officer no matter how highly placed should enjoy a life pension after living office
Furthermore, if I had my way I would also suggest that they should not be entitled to severance allowance because public service is not contract service. It is only in the case of contract service that severance allowances are paid to cushion the harsh effect of terminating a contract
It is time for the government to be more prudent and to protect the public funds from being applied to further the cause of injustice and inequity in the public service