Published On: Tue, May 16th, 2023

Deltans Kick As Ex-Govs Receive N50m Pension Annually Despite Huge Debt


LAGOS MAY 16TH (URHOBOTODAY)-As some state governors is getting ready to hand over power to the incoming governors on May 29th, 2023, reports has disclosed that the Delta State government owes more debt than any other state in Nigeria.

According to a recent report, it has been revealed that despite owing N304.25bn domestic debt and $58.77m foreign debt, Delta State pays their former governors a total of N50 million every year as pension.

The law that entitles past Delta State governors this huge pension is contained in the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits Law, 2005, which was signed into law by former governor James Ibori, who ruled the state between 1999 and 2007. The law was later amended in 2009.

Deltans are protesting against the law with few  days for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State to  hand over after exhausting the constitutional two terms of four years each at Dennis Osadebey House, Asaba.

As expected, the astute politician would be retiring into a life of sustained luxury like his successors, courtesy of the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits (Amendment Law) 2019, which makes provision for generous retirement benefits.

The law was enacted by the state House of Assembly in 2005 during the tenure of ex-governor James Ibori and his deputy, Benjamin Elue, and was first amended in 2009 during the tenure of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.

Its amendment in 2019 during Okowa’s tenure, was ostensibly tailor-made to extend the pension largesse to his kinsman, Sam Obi (now late) who was acting governor for about six weeks in 2010.

The law makes provision for ex-governors to be paid allowances and other benefits pegged at N50 million annually.

The listed life benefits include a furnished duplex in Delta State or any state in the country worth over N300 million; 350 per cent gratuity of basic salary for the first tenure; and gratuity of 450 per cent of basic salary for second tenure.

It also includes a pension of 70 per cent of the first term; a pension of 80 per cent of second term; medical treatment for him and members of his immediate family; and two vehicles, including an utility vehicle not below N20 million each every two years.

They are also entitled to two armed policemen and one DSS officer; 15 days annual vacation in a place of choice; an office with four aides, with each earning N100,000 monthly.

Although there has been public outcry against the law, outgoing Governor Okowa, in 2020 (one year after the second amendment) said his administration had no plans to repeal it.

“There is an existing law in Delta State on what accrues to the governors and their deputies, that I don’t want to touch,” Okowa had said.

Regardless, there has been relentless agitation against the controversial law by members of the public who are insisting that the former governors were simply eating the future of the state, if not abolished.

The state chairman of Association of Contributory Retirees (ACR), Mr. Anthony Osanekwu, blamed labour unions for allowing the pension law, describing it as obnoxious.

“It looks as if we don’t have labour unions in Delta State because if we have labour unions, they will kick against such obnoxious law. In Anambra, our next door neighbouring state, they wanted to start it, and labour kicked against it seriously and they stopped it.

“Look, they think that they are enjoying now but wait, 10 years to come, they will not be able to pay all these governors that they are paying their salaries for life, even permanent secretaries.

“The colonial masters that left and told us that we are going to earn 70 per cent of our salaries when we are retiring, knew what they did but now they are politicising everything.

“A time will come, they will not be able to pay these permanent secretaries that are going with their salaries for life; the governors and their deputies that are going with their salaries for life; the professors and the judges that are going with their salaries for life.

“If you calculate all these things, that is what Okowa is always calculating and will be saying that he spent N2 billion for pension. The question is how much is our own there?” Osanekwu wondered.

A human rights lawyer and Coordinator, Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged (CENTREP), Oghenejabor Ikimi, would rather blame the state lawmakers for operating a rubber stamp legislature, describing the jumbo benefits for ex-governors provided in the law, as immoral.

His words: “It is immoral to have that kind of pension law for ex-governors, it is morally wrong for you to pay ex-governors and their deputies so much when we are unable to pay our pensioners in the state. It is immoral for a retired governor and any ex-governor with conscience to take such money at the expense of Deltans.

“You know the House of Assembly is just an extension of the executive, they are rubber stamps, so they just passed this law against Deltans particularly the impoverished ones. I think that they should repeal that law. Any governor that has good intentions for Deltans should repeal that law because what these governors earn in four or eight years runs into billions of naira.

“You can’t govern Delta State or any state in the Niger Delta and remain poor. Once you govern any of these oil-bearing states, you are already a billionaire for life. So what are you using all these monies for? That is why I said it is immoral, and it is an aggression against the poor people of the state.

“Let us use this money to develop the state, to pay retirees. Infrastructural development is gone, we have forgotten about infrastructural development totally. A lot of things in the state are in chaos when it comes to infrastructural development, the state is in chaos. We don’t have adequate judges to hear cases. A lot of things are wrong.

“So I implore the incoming governor and the House of Assembly, the first thing they should do is to repeal that law in the interest of Deltans in order to earn the confidence of Deltans. We are hopeful that the new governor will do justice to that law.

“No governor should be entitled to pension because constitutionally, the position of the governor is not pensionable. So it is against the constitution, we don’t have any moral right to do that. Why not just make official corruption punishable by death, but they won’t do that.”

On his part, the state chairman of the Labour Party, Tony Ezeagwu, said it was unfortunate to continue to pay ex-governors with the state resources, when millions of people were languishing in abject poverty.

“It is quite unfortunate that in Nigeria, we don’t look at the masses but rather we do what suits us and our families. If not, Nigeria cannot be languishing in abject poverty and people are busy creating jumbo pay for themselves.

“If you watch, these are people who have worked, retired, they are not even supposed to have another pension. It is an aberration, but because we don’t have a country that has rule of law, that is why somebody will retire, take a government appointment and again get another pension.

“The governors have worked in their respective fields of endeavour and retired. So they are being unfair to Deltans because if we keep sharing this money like that, at the end of the day, the allocation will just be for paying ex-governors.

“As far as I am concerned, that decision should be rescinded and the right thing should be done. We have a state House of Assembly that can equally amend the law, laws are made to be amended when the need arises. I think the need has arisen for them to look at that law and amend it.

“As governor, you have taken enough, and they still want to set aside money to be given to you again, it is an aberration that should not stand. If I have my way, I will completely abolish it, they don’t need it. Once you finish your tenure as a governor, go home, you have taken your own piece of the cake, so you go home with nothing,” Ezeagwu said.

Nevertheless, the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, had exonerated the outgoing administration from enacting the controversial law, noting that the 2019 amendment was aimed at accommodating the late Sam Obi.

Aniagwu said there was no new pension law for ex-governors in the state, as speculated in opposition quarters.

“Okowa did not sign any new law with respect to governors’ pension, we did not sign any new law, what we have is an existing law that has been there before now.

“And just because they are still looking for ways to possibly pinch us, they are putting it in the social media making it look like we have signed a new law with new benefits.

“Let them tell you the date that that law was signed. Let them tell you when the House of Assembly considered the law, let them tell you what the debate was like, who was present when the law was signed.



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