The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation, to take legal action against former governors, who are now either senators or ministers so as to recover an alleged N40bn earned in double payment.
SERAP alleged that Bukola Saraki, senate president, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Godswill Akpabio, Theodore Orji, Abdullahi Adamu, Sam Egwu, Shaaba Lafiagi, are among former governors receiving double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states.
Others named are Joshua Dariye, Jonah Jang, Ahmed Sani Yarima, Danjuma Goje, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Adamu Aliero, George Akume, Biodun Olujimi, Enyinaya Harcourt Abaribe, Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi, Chris Ngige and Babatunde Fashola.
In an open letter on Sunday, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP executive director, said former governors and their deputies are drawing “dubious payments” based on retirement and pension laws crafted by them while they were in office.
The organisation said Malami should challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors to enjoy emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.
“[Malami should] seek full recovery of over N40 billion of public funds that have so far been received from those involved; and to begin to take these steps within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel the discharge of constitutional duty and full compliance with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations and commitments,” the letter read.
“Public interest is not well served when government officials such as former governors, deputies supplement their emoluments in their current positions with life pensions and emoluments drawn from their states’ meagre resources and thereby prioritising their private or personal interests over and above the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
“SERAP considers double emoluments for serving public officials unlawful, as the laws granting those benefits take governance away from the arena of public interest, and create the impression that former governors acted contrary to the best interests of the general public. Double emoluments and large severance benefits for former governors now serving public officials constitute a blatant betrayal of public trust.
“SERAP is concerned that several serving senators and ministers are receiving salaries and life pensions running into billions of naira from states that are currently unwilling or unable to pay their workers’ salaries. Public office is a public trust, and as such, citizens depend upon their governors, senators and ministers to act in the public interest, not for their own or another’s profit or benefit.”
“Under the UN Convention against corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, it is forbidden for any public official to engage in self-dealing, and place him/herself in a position of conflicting interests, and to hold incompatible functions or illicitly engage in providing to him/herself emoluments deemed unacceptable under international law. This is a clear case of the former governors placing their private or personal interests over and above their entrusted public functions, and unduly influencing the level of benefits they receive.
“SERAP argues that taking advantage of entrusted public offices and positions to enact laws to grant double emoluments and large severance benefits to serving public officials amounts to not only an abuse of office but also incorrect, dishonourable and improper performance of public functions, as per the provisions of paragraph 2 of article 8 of the convention.”
It said the former governors have abused their entrusted public functions and positions and obtained an undue advantage, contrary to article 19 of the convention.
“The double emoluments and large severance benefits laws also violate the conflicts of interest provisions of the convention. The fact that these laws are signed by former governors in the exercise of their functions as public officials and now benefiting from the entitlements under such laws while serving as senators and ministers raise serious conflict of interest issue under paragraph 5 of article 8 of the convention,” it read.
“We believe that the current Code of Conduct for Public officials Act is outdated and entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the object and purpose of the UN convention against corruption, which requires Nigeria to adopt a comprehensive code of conduct for the performance of public functions and implicitly to prohibit double emoluments and large severance benefits for public officials such as former governors.
“SERAP notes the resolution of the UN General Assembly to the effect that every state has the duty to carry out in good faith its obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law, and it may not invoke provisions in its constitutions or its laws as an excuse for failure to perform this duty.
“As such, your government is mandated to challenge the legality of double and large emoluments states’ laws and bring them in line with Nigeria’s international obligations including under the convention. This position is buttressed by article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties, which provides that no state can justify the non-compliance with an international treaty with reference to internal law, including even the constitution.
“SERAP notes that under the Lagos pension law a former governor will enjoy the following benefits for life: Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja estimated to cost between N500m and N700m. Others are six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual salary to be paid every two years, and a close to N2.5m as pension (about N30m pension annually); free medicals including for his immediate families; 10 percent house maintenance; 30 percent car maintenance; 10 percent entertainment; 20 percent utility; and several domestic staff.
“In Rivers, state law provides 100 percent of annual basic salaries for ex-governor and deputy, one residential house for former governor anywhere of his choice in Nigeria; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy, three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years; 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years for furniture; 10 percent of annual basic salary for house maintenance.
“In Akwa Ibom, state law provides for N200m annual pay to ex-governors, deputies; pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor/deputy governor respectively; a new official car and utility-vehicle every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5m per month and N2.5m for the deputy governor.
“Others are free medical services for governor and spouse at an amount not exceeding N100m for the governor per annum and N50m for the deputy governor; a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom and allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor; 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years and severance gratuity.
“Similarly, the Kano state pension rights of governor and deputy governor law 2007 provides for 100 percent of annual basic salaries for former governor and deputy; furnished and equipped office; a six-bedroom house; well-furnished four-bedroom for deputy, plus an office; free medical treatment along with immediate families within and outside Nigeria where necessary; two drivers; and a provision for a 30-day vacation within and outside Nigeria.
“In Gombe state, there is N300m executive pension benefits for the ex-governors. In Kwara State, the 2010 law gives a former governor two cars and a security car replaceable every three years; a well-furnished five-bedroom duplex; 300 per cent of his salary as furniture allowance; five personal staff; three state security services; free medical care for the governor and the deputy; 30 percent of salary for car maintenance; 20 percent for utility; 10 percent for entertainment; 10 percent for house maintenance.”