Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to drag President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to court if he fails to direct all former governors he recently appointed as ministers to stop collecting life pensions, exotic cars and other allowances from their states while serving as ministers.
SERAP also asked President Tinubu to instruct the former governors to immediately return any pension and allowances that they may have collected since leaving office to the public treasury.
Former governors affected by these demands made in an open letter written by SERAP to the president are Badaru Abubakar, Nyesom Wike, Bello Matawalle, Adegboyega Oyetola, David Umahi, Simon Lalong, Atiku Bagudu and Ibrahim Geidam.
The civil society organisation, in the letter dated August 19, 2023 and signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, stated that the appointment of former governors who collect life pensions while serving as ministers is implicitly forbidden by the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and the country’s international legal obligations.
It also maintained that the president would be acting in the public interest by stopping former governors from collecting life pensions, especially given the current grave economic realities in the country.
SERAP insisted that Nigerians will judge his government in part by the conduct, integrity and honesty of the ministers that he appointed to work in his government, adding that his success would depend on the conduct of the ministers.
The organisation pointed out that while many pensioners are not paid their pensions, former governors serving as ministers get paid huge severance benefits upon leaving office, and are poised to enjoy double emoluments on top of the opulence of political office holders.
SERAP said, “We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The exercise of your power of appointment ought to reflect ethical and constitutional safeguards and requirements, and the fundamental principles of integrity and honesty.
“Stopping the former governors from collecting double emoluments would be entirely consistent with the proper exercise of your constitutional power to appoint ministers.
“Stopping the former governors from collecting life pensions would ensure that the country’s wealth and resources are used for the common good and benefit of the socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians rather than to satisfy the opulent lifestyle of a few politicians.
“Instructing the former governors now serving as ministers in your government to stop collecting life pensions from their states would also improve public confidence in the integrity and honesty of your government.”
The organisation also argued that the constitutional oath of office taken by public officials requires them to abstain from all improper acts, including collecting life pensions that are inconsistent with the public trust and the overall objectives of the Constitution.
It stated: “According to our information, the following former governors are now ministers in your administration: Badaru Abubakar (former governor of Jigawa State and Minister of Defence); and Nyesom Wike (former governor of River State and FCT Minister).
“Others include Bello Matawalle (former governor of Zamfara State and Minister of State for Defence); Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola (former governor of Osun State and Minister of Transportation); and David Umahi (Minister of Works).
“Others are Simon Bako Lalong (former governor of Plateau State and Minister of Labour and Employment); Atiku Bagudu (former governor of Kebbi State and Minister of Budget and Economic Planning); Ibrahim Geidam (former governor of Yole State and Minister of Police of Affairs.
“The states currently implementing life pensions for former governors reportedly include Jigawa, Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Yobe, and Rivers. Many of these states owe workers’ salaries and remain the poorest in the country.”