Unpaid salaries: Nigerians demand repeal of ex-govs’ pension laws

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  • Sagay, Osipitan, others condemn state legislators for complicity

Following startling revelation of the jumbo retirement benefits and allowances being paid by states to former governors and their deputies, some notable Nigerians have called for the repeal of the pension laws legalising such anomaly.
The Point had, last week, reported that eight states in the country had been expending a whopping N776 billion annually on the settlement of the pension of their ex-governors.
Outraged by this development in the face of many states’ inability to pay workers’ salaries, Nigerians have described the pension laws as the high point of abuse by the former governors, who they accused of influencing the passing of the laws by their respective Houses of Assembly in the twilight of their administrations.
They also gave knocks to state legislators for “sheepishly succumbing” to the desires of the ex-governors for access to easy money after office.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, argued that, giving such financial attention to the former governors when most states of the federation could not cope with the daunting challenges of an economy in recession, was bad governance.
Sagay said, “That an ex-governor will be earning pension when salaries are not being paid, I think that is wrong. If you are suspending payment of salaries, because they don’t have enough money, then ex-governors’ pension should not be a priority at all. So, they should save that money to pay salaries, and should pay pension to governors only when the state is buoyant enough and after meeting all other expenditures.
“To do otherwise, to refuse to pay workers’ salaries, while paying the ex-governors’ pension, is extremely immoral and contrary to the responsibility of the government to the people. It is definitely bad governance that is not acceptable and should not be tolerated at all.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, said that, though the pension laws had already been passed by the legislature of the various states, citizens could still rise to demand their overturn.
Osipitan noted that paying ex-governors such huge funds as retirement benefits and pension when workers had yet to be paid their salaries was highly immoral.
He said, “If there is a pension law of a state that quoted the salary and allowances for the ex-governors, then the law is valid. But the case here is not about the law but how the states apply the funds at their disposal. I mean how they prioritise their governance. If they have N10 million and decide to spend N8 million on those who have retired, and they are now spending N2 milliion on the people working in the state, I think that is totally wrong, and it is not an issue of law, it is purely an issue of how you prioritise your available fund.
“It will be immoral and improper for a government not to pay those who are working but use a substantial part of the money available to pay those who have retired. It is a big immorality.”
On the need for a repeal of such pension laws, the professor of law laid the responsibility at the feet of both the citizens and the lawmakers.
Osipitan said,“If the people represented by the lawmakers in the state assembly find the pension law bad, and they could convince the lawmakers in the assembly, I believe that nothing should stop the law makers from amending the law by taking away the clauses that grant benefits which are on the high side.
“Though the ex-governors have served the state, that doesn’t mean millions of naira should be wasted on them for gratuity purpose