An executive pension law considered as a rip-off of the state by Governor Godswill Akpabio and hurriedly passed by Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to become operational from June 1, stirs up controversy and condemnation
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Jun. 9, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
GOVERNOR Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom is not taking chances in planning for his life after leaving power. In less than eight months to the end of his tenure, he has put in place a pension scheme that would make him and his family live comfortably at public expense for the rest of his life. An executive pension Bill he forwarded to the State House of Assembly for this purposed had an accelerated passage on May 26, is now awaiting his assent. Under the law, he is entitled to pocket a whooping N200 million in annual pay after his tenure expires. Other benefits he is entitled to under the law include a new house, brand new cars, furniture and luxurious living for the rest of his life. The controversial law known as Akwa Ibom State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Bill 2014, has repealed the 2006 Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law in the state. To underscore the urgency of the bill, the governor has indicated that he wanted it passed hurriedly so it could come into force on June 1. Governor Akpabio had on May 15, transmitted the bill to the Assembly with reference number GHU/AKS/S/104/338. Akpabio and former democratically elected governors of the state and their deputies as well as indigenes of the state who served in similar positions in Cross River State, will pocket several millions in monthly retirement perks.
Based on Section 1(1) of the bill, “An indigene of the state who has held office as a democratically elected governor or deputy governor of former Cross River State and a person who has held office as a democratically elected governor or deputy governor of the state shall, when he ceases to hold office, be entitled to the new perks. Although similar laws have been passed by many Nigerian governors including those of Lagos, Rivers, Bauchi and Benue states, among others, Mr. Akpabio’s version is clearly the most ludicrous.
Under the new law, Akpabio and others listed in Section 1(1) are entitled to a monthly pension for life at the rate equivalent to his current salary. Similarly, Valerie Ebe, serving deputy governor, is entitled to a monthly pension for life at the rate of her current salary. Akpabio and his deputy will therefore pocket a total of N2, 223, 705. 00; and N2, 112, 215, 00 respectively as monthly and a total of N26, 684, 460,00 and N25, 346, 580 respectively as pension, per annum. This is based on approved remuneration package for state executive and local government executives by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC.
The governor is also entitled to a new official car and a utility vehicle once every four years, one personal aide and the provision of adequate security for his person during his lifetime at the expense of the state government. Akwa Ibom taxpayers are also expected to provide an amount not exceeding N5 million or an equivalent of $50,000.00 monthly for Akpabio to engage the services of a cook, chauffeurs and security guards.
This provision is in contrast with Section 1(b) of the Bill, which indicates that security shall be provided to former governors during their lifetime at the expense of the government. However, the deputy governor is entitled to N2million or an equivalent of $20,000.00 monthly allowance to hire cooks, chauffeurs and security guards. Akpabio and his spouse are to also access free medical services at a sum not exceeding N100 million or an equivalent of $600,000.00, while the deputy and her spouse will pocket N30 million or an equivalent of $200,000.00, annually.
Section 1(e, f, g, h, I j) of the bill states that Akpabio and other past governors should be entitled to a “Provision of a befitting house not below a 5-bedroom maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom State for the governor and a yearly accommodation allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor. “Provision of furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary once in every four years; (A total of N6, 671,115 for the governor and N6, 336,645 for the deputy); provision of yearly maintenance and fueling of vehicle allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary; (A total of N6, 671,115 for the governor and N6, 336,645 for the deputy)
“Provision of severance gratuity allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary as at the time the officer leaves office; (Another N6, 671,115 for the governor and N6, 336,645 for the deputy); provision of yearly utility allowance of 100 percent of annual salary; (with the governor taking N2, 223,705 while his deputy takes N2, 112, 215) and provision of entertainment allowance of 100 percent of annual basic salary; (Another N2, 223,705 for the governor and N2, 112, 215 for the deputy).”
According to Section 2 of the Bill, a former governor or deputy who received severance gratuity under Akwa Ibom State Public and Political Office Holders (Remuneration) Law, 2000 is not eligible for any other severance pay. This means that former Governor Victor Attah will enjoy the sumptuous retirement perks but will not be entitled to severance pay since he had been paid based on the provisions of the 2000 law.
Where a former governor or deputy governor dies, the bill provides that the state government makes adequate arrangement and bear the financial responsibility for the burial. The government is also expected to pay a condolence allowance of a sum equivalent to the annual basic salary of an incumbent to the next of kin. One surviving spouse of the governor is entitled to a medical allowance not exceeding N12 million per annum provided such spouse was married to the governor at the time he or she was in office or if a wife had served as first lady.
Unless on health grounds, a former governor or deputy who resigned his office, or was impeached or who had not held office for a period of three years or more, is not entitled to benefit from the provision of the proposed law.
The Bill has generated controversy in and around the state, with the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, in the state planning to stage a protest in Uyo, the state capital. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has also joined in faulting the passage of the Bill by the State House of Assembly. It described the Bill as immoral, unfair, unconstitutional, unreasonable, and a rip-off on a massive scale.
“Akwa Ibom must be the only place on the planet where such pension scheme exists. The governor must now put Akwa Ibom ahead of his own personal bank balance by immediately withdrawing this grotesque Bill. Nigerians should not be made to subsidise these bloated pensions and clearly undeserved perks. The governor obviously views disadvantaged Nigerians and poor pensioners according to Orwell’s Animal Farm dictum: ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’. Signing the bill into law will amount to a fundamental breach of the governor’s constitutional oath declaration to serve the interest of justice, common good, transparency and accountability.
“This so-called proposed legislation means that millions of Nigerian who continue to suffer from years of pervasive corruption and impunity of perpetrators will have to fund the massive and unjust pensions for Governor Godwill Akpabio and his deputy and others that will come after them. SERAP is appalled by this apparently unfair and discriminatory law. There is absolutely no justification for such law at a time the pensions systems across the country are in poor shape, and pensioners continue to be denied the fruit of their labour,” it stated.