Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and nine other lawmakers in the 10th Senate, over a collection of salaries and pensions as former governors, while they are serving and earning salaries as senators.
SERAP made this disclosure in a statement made available to newsmen on Sunday, October 7, 2023, by the Deputy Director of the organization, Kolawole Oluwadare.
According to the statement issued by the organization, the people who joined in the suit as Respondents are senators and ministers: Abdulaziz Yari; Aminu Tambuwal; Adamu Aliero; Adams Oshiomole; Ibrahim Gaidam; Seriake Dickson; Ibrahim Dankwambo; Aliyu Wammako; Gbenga Daniel, and Dave Umahi.
Meanwhile, it would be recalled that Senator Gbenga Daniel, who was once a governor in Ogun State, said recently that he forwarded a letter to the state government, to stop paying his pension as a former governor of the state until further notice, noting that he can not be collecting salary as a senator and still be earning pension from the state.
However, SERAP in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1360/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio, nine other senators and Mr Umahi to stop collecting both salaries and pensions and to return any pensions collected to their respective state treasuries.”
The organization prayed to the court for: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio, nine other senators and Mr Umahi to clarify and disclose if they have collected and/or currently collecting both salaries and pensions as former governors.”
The non-governmental organization is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio, nine other senators and Mr Umahi to disclose the details and amounts of the pensions so far received by them.”
SERAP in the suit filed on its behalf by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Valentina Adegoke, argued that: “The Seventh Schedule to the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) requires the former governors to stop collecting both salaries and pensions and to return any pensions collected.”
The organization also argues that “Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the former governors would continue to both enjoy life pension packages, and collect salaries as serving public officers, and the travesty and private self-interest would continue.”
It stated categorically that, “It a fundamental breach of their fiduciary duties for former governors to collect both salaries and pensions. The alleged collection by former governors of double emoluments is detrimental to the public interest.”
SERAP maintained that “Collecting pensions as former governors and salaries while serving as public officers is a flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution and the public trust.”
It stated that “It is a travesty for former governors to be looking after themselves while over 137 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty exacerbated by the removal of fuel subsidy.”
The suit reads in part: “The UN Convention against Corruption requires public officials to discharge a public duty truthfully and faithfully.
“The UN Convention also implicitly prohibits large severance benefits for public officials. The convention specifically in Article 8 requires public officers to promote integrity and responsibility in the management of public resources.
“Paragraph 2 (a) of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers in the Fifth Schedule, Part 1 of the Nigerian Constitution provides in part: ‘a public officer shall not receive or be paid the emoluments of any public office at the same time as he receives or is paid the emoluments of any other public office.’
“Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo in a landmark judgment dated 26 November 2019 also indicated that double emoluments for former governors are unacceptable, unconstitutional and illegal.
“Constitutional oath of office requires public officials including former governors in the Senate and serving as ministers to abstain from all improper acts, including collecting life pensions. A false oath lacks truth and justice. The oath statements require the oath takers to commit to uphold and defend the Constitution.
“According to reports, there are fourteen former governors in the Senate and as ministers who may be collecting pensions running into billions of naira from their states. The former governors include Godswill Akpabio (Akwa-Ibom State); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo State); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State); Dave Umahi (Ebonyi State); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State); and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger State).
“Others are Ibrahim Danwkambo (Gombe State); Danjuma Goje (Gombe State); Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara State); Gbenga Daniel (Ogun State); Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto State); Orji Kalu (Abia State); Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe State); and Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State). Also, there are at least seven former governors in President Bola Tinubu’s cabinet who may be collecting both salaries and pensions.
“The states currently implementing life pensions for former governors reportedly include Akwa-Ibom, Abia, Edo, Jigawa, Niger, Kebbi, Kano, Ogun, Sokoto, Jigawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Benue, Gombe, Yobe, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina, Rivers, and Delta.
“Under Akwa Ibom Life Pension law [as amended] a former governor is entitled to an annual pay of N200 million, two official vehicles with chauffeurs, furniture allowance of 300 per cent of basic salary replaceable every four years, an aide, a cook, and lifetime security guards worth N5 million monthly, and N2.5 million for their deputies.
“There is also state-sponsored annual medical service of about N100 million for ex-governors and their spouses and N50 million for the ex-deputy governors, five-bedroom mansions in Abuja and Akwa Ibom.
“Other benefits include 300% annual basic salary as ‘severance gratuity’, 300% of the annual basic salary for ‘car maintenance’; 100% of the annual basic salary for ‘entertainment’; and 100% of the annual basic salary for ‘utility.’
“In Abia State, a former governor is entitled to 100 per cent of the salary of the incumbent. Benefits for former governors include an official car, a police orderly, two operatives of two policemen for the security of his house and allowances for cooks, stewards, drivers and gardeners.
“In Gombe State, there are N300 million executive pension benefits for the ex-governors. Ex-governors and deputy governors are also entitled to 30-day paid travel expenses annually to any country of their choice alongside their wives.
“A former governor is also entitled to two utility cars, while his deputy is entitled to one car to be replaced periodically. Both the governor, deputy governor and their wives are entitled to paid medical treatment at home or abroad.
“In Sokoto State, former governors and deputy governors are to receive N200m and N180m respectively being monetization for other entitlements which include domestic aides, accommodation and vehicles replaceable every four years.
“According to the 2013 life pension law, the pension should be charged upon the consolidated revenue fund of the state. Former governors and their deputies are also entitled to other privileges, such as free medical treatment anywhere for themselves, their spouses and biological children, and the payment of all their utilities.
“Under the life pension law in Jigawa, former governors are entitled to the same salary as the incumbent, two vehicles replaceable every four years, a six-bedroom apartment, furnished office, two personal assistants, and two drivers.
“In Edo State, former governors and their deputies are entitled to a house in any location of their choice, pension for life at 100 per cent of their last salary, three brand new cars after five years, drivers, domestic members of staff, medical bills for them and their immediate families, amongst many other benefits.”
However, reports revealed that no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.