Stakeholders in the South South have described the law granting life pension to former governors and their deputies as illegal and unconstitutional.
A cross section of those interviewed by the News Agency of Nigeria across the zone, said life pension for former governors and their deputies was an aberration that must be condemned.
Former Gov. Lucky Igbinedion of Edo had initiated life pension for former governors and the deputies before leaving office.
Adaze Emwanta, a constitutional lawyer said that life pension for former governors was illegal since it was not in the 1999 constitution.
Emwanta said that those who drafted the 1999 constitution would have included such provisions if they considered them expedient in public service.
“It is sad to note that the lawmakers who legislate on the governorship pension bills were not even themselves immediate beneficiaries of such ambitious and ostentatious legislative enterprise.
“I honestly think that if the idea of after-office pension is right for those who occupy public office, the elected people who make such an enabling law in parliament should be beneficiaries of it.
“Why the horizontal discrimination in the category of beneficiaries if the life pension is self deserving, or worth the legislative bill by which it was enacted?
“Apart from the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and his Deputies, l do not think any other Governor in Nigeria, albeit elected should be paid life pension.
“This controversial pension law is in place in Edo. But there appears to be a strong and growing agitation for a complete abrogation of governors pension law in Nigeria,’’ he said.
He also said that two courts of competent jurisdictions in Nigeria have declared as illegal and unconstitutional state laws that allowed former governors, most of whom had become either ministers or Senators, to be paid life pensions.
Emwanta described the law as insensitive and unacceptable due to the current economic realities occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic that crippled the global economy.
According to him, the law is not sustainable because we had and perhaps still have some former governors who received military pension together with their current salaries as serving Senators.
“To now add life governorship pension to the already bogus list of benefits is most unfair and inimical to economic equilibrium.
“We have governors who have refused to pay the N30,000 minimum wage but gladly accept to be life beneficiaries of monies meant to pay those who have spent more than three decades in public service,’’ Emwanta said.
Osazee Edigin, Coordinator, Edo Civil Society Organisations (EDOSCO), who also frowned at such laws, added that such legislation should not be encouraged by Nigerians.
Edigin noted that the law was to be reviewed upward in Edo in 2016 but was resisted by protests by the civil society organisations in the state.
“The pension law shows how much priority our leaders place on what amounts to wastage of collective resources at a time states government are finding it difficult to implement the N30, 000 minimum wage.
“The current Nigerian economy cannot sustain it without resulting to more deficit in infrastructure development and default in salary payment for civil servants,’’ Edigin said.
Prof. Monday Omoregie, a lecturer at the University of Benin, described the law authorising pension for former governors and their deputies, as a way of legalising further stealing of public fund.
Omoregie said that such law was not desirable in states whose people had already been impoverished.
He noted that it was criminal for governors and deputies who served for four or eight years and enjoyed the paraphernalia of the office to continuously receive bogus allowance in the name of pensions.
“It takes a typical civil servant to works for 35 years or get to the age of 60 before he gets his retirement benefits.
“But now because some people have opportunity to get to the position of authority, will after four or eight years get what will take people that they governed 35 years to get.
“Don’t forget that these state governors would not pay retirement benefits to those people in time.
“Many of them die without getting their benefits. The Nigerian public should rise against this,’’ he said.
The lecturer, also Chairman, University of Benin chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, said it was greed taken too far for individuals who enjoyed wardrobe allowance and security votes running to millions of naira, to still crave for pension after tenure in office.
“But for us in the academic world, if we talk, they will say our own is too much, whereas we base on action on facts and rule of law.
“The summary of my submission is that it is a criminal action; it is a rape on the people; it is an affront on the people.
“I don’t know what other words to use, it is a legalised stealing on the people and I think it’s right time people react to it.
“If not checked, people will soon be more impoverished while the states will go into bankruptcy,” he said.
He added:“In the next 32 years, there is likely to be between four to eight ex-governors and deputies, the states that have already been impoverished will now be saddled with this payment.
“This is a payment that is not adding value to the economy of the state in any way neither does it add to the welfare of the people any more.
“These are people that have set up their private businesses, but are further impoverishing the people. At the end of it all, the state will be no more economically enslaved.
“I think it is time to see it as a burden now, they should stop this nonsense.
“Although Nigerians are docile, people should be emancipated enough to say no to the nonsense.”
But in spite of the public outcry, no governor in Edo has made efforts to repeal the law as it was being done in other states with similar legislation.
In Delta, Dr Emman Mordi, immediate past Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Delta University, Abraka, said life pension for past governors and their deputies was an obnoxious scheme.
“Some states in Nigeria are already scrapping the indefensible scheme by which their governors and deputy governors milk their states dry for merely being in office for eight years.
“No well-meaning Nigerian can support the obnoxious scheme in the face of the same governors’ refusal to implement minimum wage for their workers who are condemned to live in penury after retirement.
“The same governors do not pay the paltry retirement benefits of the workers years after they have left service.
“Not even the next-of-kin of fallen workers get death benefits paid promptly in some states. It is a political and moral issue that should prick the conscience of all concerned,’’ Mordi said.
Mr Sylvester Imonina, a lawyer, said the payment of life pension to past governors and their deputies was against equity and good conscience.
“Considering the economic realities in Nigeria, payment of life pension to former governors and their deputies should be kicked against by all Nigerians irrespective of political divide.
“The humongous amount of money they allocated to themselves while in office is more than enough for them to leave outside political offices.
“Most annoying is the fact that most of the former governors and their deputies are in the Senate, Federal Cabinet and holding one juicy position or the other at the state level.
“It is therefore devilish, glut tonic and against equity and good conscience for the former governors and their deputies to continue to enjoy life pension,’’ Imonina said.
Emeka Nkwoala, a politician, who also said the scheme was despicable, called on Delta government to repeal the law establishing life pension for former governors and their deputies in the state.
“I consider life pension for governors and their deputies as criminal. Pension in itself is meant for workers who have put in most of their active life of about 30 to 35 years in service.
“Why then do you pay governors and their deputies who at most serve for 8 years humongous pension packages? I do not believe in it. It is criminal.
“Most states are yet to implement the N30,000 minimum wage, virtually all the states are not funding the contributory pension scheme.
“With the dwindling resources in Nigeria, Delta has no business continuing with payment of life pension to past governors and their deputies; it should stop now.
“Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa must as a matter of urgency send an Executive Bill abolishing payment of life pension for past governors and their deputies.
“It is unsustainable and criminal considering the level of poverty in the land and the depreciating value of the naira coupled with insecurity in parts of the state,’’ Nkwoala said.
Favour Ogbogu, a resident of Asaba, said that her father was a direct victim of the frustration caused by delayed pension in the state which supported life pension for ex-governors.
“My father suffered, he was still training us when he retired from service in Delta, although his pension finally came five years after but it was a harrowing experience for my family, we really suffered,’’ she said.
However, Ogbonna Nwuke, a former lawmaker who represented Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency in Rivers, said that life pension for former governors/deputies was not suitable for Nigeria except for those who did not looted while in office.
Nwuke said that placing former governors and their deputies or any other political office holder on life pension might be a good plan if the person would focus on serving the people without looting public fund.
“Government officials knowing that they will be catered for by the system after their services, may not have time to steal from the same system.
“This also means that politics is being upgraded or public administration by politicians is gradually being upgraded to some form of service.
“There is an issue here when a governor, his deputy or any political officer have many avenues which he planned to continue enriching himself with the public fund.
“In a system where people become rich overnight because they are in such top positions, it will amount to double payment,’’ he stated.
Nwuke called on Nigerians to be talking about life pension for people who have served the country in the civil service and in the private sector who needed support from the system to survive.
“We should not be thinking about gratifying people who have already being exposed and have access to too much funds and make power profitable for those who are simply there to grab fund,’’ he said.
He said that life pension might be a good idea for former political officers but unsuitable for Nigeria.
Nwuke also urged former political office holders to revive their former businesses or jobs before they joined politics.
Mr Ogbor Ogbor, lawmaker representing Biase constituency at the Cross River House of Assembly, said that life pension for governor and their deputies was capable of creating social imbalance in Nigeria.
Ogbor said that life pension for former governors and deputies could further widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
“Former political office holders should be comfortable after office in view of the numerous benefits and allowances they enjoyed while in office,” he said.
According to him, there is no justification for placing a former governor and his deputy for life pension, even when he held government resources for a period of four or eight years as the case may be.
“For me, I totally condemn the issue of life pension for governors and their dog. We should create an equality that won’t lead to social challenges.
“When some certain individuals are too rich than others, there’s bound to be abundant challenges like insecurity and others that we are facing now,” he said.
Mr Cletus Obun, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) said it was provocative to extend any gesture for former governors, their deputies or their wives.
“For me it is right for elected public office holders to be supported when they leave office, but it is at once provocative as it is preposterous to extend such welfare to their wives.
“It will amount to dubious duplication of compensation,” Obun said.
Mr Dan Obu, Chairman, Cross River chapter of Nigerian Youth Council, said he was opposed to life pension for former governors and their deputies.
He said there was no justification for such life pension, adding that such funds should be channeled to create jobs for teeming unemployed Nigerian youths.
“I do not support life pension for governors and deputies because to me, it does not make sense.
“Look at the condition of retired civil servants after putting in 35 years, some of them die without receiving their pensions or gratuities.
“Such funds should be used to create jobs for our youths,” he said.