•TUC warns govs to pay workers’ arrears, experts flay jumbo packages
No fewer than 18 outgoing state governors will retire into lives of luxury with generous pension benefits despite mounting debts and unpaid workers’ salaries.
The PUNCH investigations showed that the governors, who will hand over to their successors on May 29, 2023, would be leaving behind at least N3.06tn debt for the incoming administrations.
According to data from the Debt Management Office, the debt figure of these states included N2.27tn domestic loans and $1.71bn foreign borrowing.
The foreign debt is about N787.51bn, using the exchange rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria, which was N460.53 per dollar as of May 14, 2023).
The debt figure was as of December 2022, which was the latest figure by the DMO.
The outgoing governors include Nyesom Wike (Rivers State), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta State), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom State), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano State), Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa State), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara State), Ben Ayade (Cross River State), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State),and David Umahi (Ebonyi State).
Other outgoing governors who will benefit from the largesse despite huge debts and unpaid workers’ arrears are Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State), Samuel Ortom (Benue State), Darius Ishaku (Taraba State), Abubakar Bello (Niger State), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi State), Nasir El-Rufai Kaduna State), Simon Lalong (Plateau State), Aminu Masari (Katsina State) and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State).
The outgoing governors will be completing two terms of eight years in office on May 28, 2023, (except Zamfara’s Matawalle, who lost his re-election attempt), and will be entitled to generous monetary pensions, mansions to be built in locations of their choice, luxury vehicles and domestic as well as security aides, among others, based on laws passed by their respective state houses of assembly.
The PUNCH observed that the 18 states account for 42.51 per cent of the N5.34tn total domestic debt and 38.34 per cent of the $4.46bn total foreign debt.
Also, top domestic debtors include Delta (N304.25bn), Rivers (N225.51bn) and Akwa Ibom (N219.27bn), while top external debtors include Kaduna ($573.74m), Cross River ($209.53m) and Enugu ($120.86m)
Despite N225.51bn domestic debt and $87.13m foreign debt, Wike and his deputy, Dr Ipalibo Banigo, will enjoy generous benefits after leaving office as provided in the Rivers State Pensions for Governor and Deputy Governor Law, 2012.
The law provides that three new vehicles should be purchased for former governors, and the vehicles are to be changed every four years. This is in addition to the payment of 100 per cent of their basic salaries, 300 per cent of their annual basic salary for furniture, free medical services and provision for entertainment. Their deputies also enjoy certain perks.
The pension law for former governors and their deputies was enacted by the administration of former governor Rotimi Amaechi and made other provisions such as two choice houses in any area of their choice in Rivers State and Abuja and three cars replaceable every three years for the governor.
The law also provides that 20 per cent, 10 per cent and 10 per cent of the annual salary of the incumbent governor should be earmarked for utility, accommodation maintenance and entertainment, respectively. Wike will be entitled to all these except if he decides otherwise.
However, Wike has been accused of owing teachers of staff schools of the state-owned tertiary institution for seven years.
Wike, who will be handing over to his party man, Sim Fubara, has been urged by a coalition of civil societies organisations in the state to offset the outstanding workers’ pay before the inauguration of the incoming administration.
In Delta, with N304.25bn domestic debt and $58.77m foreign debt, Okowa is entitled to a furnished duplex in Delta State or any other state in the country; medical treatment for him and members of his immediate family; two vehicles, including a utility vehicle, every two years; two armed policemen and one Department of State Security officer; 15 days’ annual vacation in any place of his choice and other benefits. The deputy governor is also entitled to similar perks.
The Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits Law, 2005, was signed into law by former governor James Ibori, who ruled the state between 1999 and 2007.
The law was later amended in 2009 as the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits (Amendment) Law, 2009.
The law makes provision for ex-governors to be paid allowances and other benefits pegged at N50m yearly.
Such perks include one duplex in any city of their choice within Nigeria, one sport utility vehicle and a backup car replaceable every two years, an office with four aides, two security personnel and monthly salaries, among others. Each of the four domestic workers will earn N100,000 monthly.
Akwa Ibom, which had N219.27bn domestic debt and $44.85m foreign debt, reportedly spends an average of N267.78m yearly on ex-governors and their deputies and Governor Emmanuel and his deputy are expected to enjoy the same as the state’s Pension Act, 2014 provides.
They are also entitled to the replacement of official and utility vehicles every four years.
Kano had N122.36bn and $100.67m foreign debt. However, Ganduje and his deputy are entitled to 100 per cent of their basic salaries, a six-bedroom house and free medical treatment for themselves and members of their families upon handover on May 29, 2023.
The law guiding pension rights for former governors and deputy governors also states that they will get well-equipped offices.
The Jigawa State ‘Former Public Officers Pension and other Benefits Law No. 15 of 2015’ stipulates that a governor who successfully completes his term without impeachment will be entitled to a monthly pension equivalent to the current salary of the current governor, two brand new vehicles to be provided by the state government and to be replaced after every four year, six-bedroom fully furnished house, two personal assistants not below grade level 10, two drivers selected by the governor and to be paid by the state, a fully furnished office in any location of choice and fully paid medical treatment within Nigeria and abroad.
The deputy governor is also to get a monthly pension equivalent to the incumbent’s salary, one assistant not below level eight, one brand new vehicle, a four-bedroom flat and an office in a location of his choice.
However, the state had N43.95bn domestic debt and $26.99m foreign debt.
Matawalle lost his re-election bid and will complete his four-year tenure on May 28, 2023, leaving N112.2bn domestic debt and $28.86m foreign debt.
The ‘Grant of Pension to Governor or Deputy Governor (Amendment Law), 2006’ made provisions for pension and other benefits to former governors. It provided a pension for life equivalent to the salary of the incumbent, two personal staff members, two vehicles replaceable every four years, two drivers, and free medical for former governors, their deputies and their immediate family members in Nigeria or abroad.
It stipulated N7m monthly for former governors and N2m to former deputy governors, but former governor Abdul-aziz Yari reviewed it to N10m and N5m monthly, respectively. However, the law was repealed by the state House of Assembly on November 26, 2019.
Also, findings revealed that the outgoing governor, Bello Matawalle, owes workers two months’ salaries. Matawalle of the APC has been urged by the NLC and the TUC in the state to settle all outstanding salaries before handing over to Dauda Lawal of the PDP.
Despite having N90.6bn domestic debt and $36.56m foreign debt, Tambuwal is expected to inherit the Sokoto State Pension Law, which makes provision for N200m every four years for former governors, while his deputy is entitled to perks amounting to N180m, being monetisation for other entitlements, including domestic aides, residences and vehicles that can be renewed after every four years.
Section 2 (2) of the Sokoto State Grant of Pension (Governor and Deputy Governor) Law, 2013 states, “The total annual pension to be paid to the governor and deputy governor shall be at a rate equivalent to the annual total salary of the incumbent governor or deputy governor of the state, respectively.”
Governor Ikpeazu, who is leaving behind N103.71bn domestic debt and $94.28m foreign debt, is entitled to 100 per cent of his salary and official vehicles worth N20m to be replaced every four years, a police orderly, two operatives of the Department of State Service, two policemen for the security of his house, as well as allowances for cooks, stewards, driver and gardener, while his deputy will enjoy similar benefits.
The law also made provisions for medical attention for the former governors and their deputies.
The Pension Law for former governors and deputy governors of the state also provides that former governors are entitled to “the sum of money as may from time to time be granted by the state government by way of pensions, allowances and privileges in accordance with this law.”
However, Dr Alex Otti, who emerged as the only governor-elect of the Labour Party and will take over from Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party on May 29, will face the challenge of repaying over 30 months’ salaries arrears to workers.
The Nigeria Labour Congress recently declared an indefinite strike in the state over the huge indebtedness to the workers.
Governor Abubakar Sani Bello will vacate the Government House in Minna to the Senate to represent the Niger North Senatorial District and will be a beneficiary of a pension scheme introduced by the Abdulkadir Kure administration, which provides for the payment of pension to former governors and deputy governors and the provision of two drivers on GL 07, two personal assistants on Grade Level 08, security aides and an SUV renewable every year. He will also get a mansion in a location of his choice.
Bello is leaving behind at least N95.59bn domestic debt and $69.23m in foreign debt.
Masari will complete his second term on May 28, passing on at least N62.37bn domestic debt and $53.92m foreign debt.
As amended, the Katsina State Pension Law, 2011, provides pensions for all former governors of the state, including those who served in the old Kaduna State from which Katsina was carved out.
The governor, just like his predecessors, is to enjoy free houses and medical services under the law as well as pension benefits of N2.22m monthly, vehicles and personal aides.
The Ebonyi State Political Office Holders Amendment Law, 2011, makes provision for the payment of pension to Governor Umahi, who is set to move to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. The law also made provisions for vehicles and personal aides, among others, for the governor and his deputy. However, the state had N76.5bn domestic debt and $58.57m foreign debt.
Many other states, like Cross River, Benue, Enugu, Taraba, Kebbi, Kaduna and Plateau states, who made it to the list of debtors, have similar provisions for their former governors and deputies while owing workers.
Recently, the Nigeria Medical Association accused Ikpeazu and governors of Imo, Hope Uzodimma, and Benue, Samuel Ortom, of giving health workers in their states “sleepless nights” over unpaid salaries.
In Benue State, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia of the All Progressives Congress will not only take over the reins of power from the PDP’s Ortom, he will also be confronted by aggrieved civil servants.
In Plateau State, the incoming governor, Caleb Muftwang of the PDP, will be forced to settle outstanding salaries owed by his predecessor, Simon Lalong of the APC. The state is currently on shutdown due to the indefinite strike declared by the NLC and the Trade Union Congress.
In Taraba State, almost all categories of workers are being owed. From lecturers in the state-owned university to teachers. The Taraba State NLC, during the 2023 Labour Day celebration, urged the governor to settle the six months’ salaries of local government employees and five months for primary school teachers before handing over to the incoming administration.
In Cross River State, the incoming governor, Bassey Otu, will face angry environmental workers in the state. Recently, the environmental workers protested the failure of the government to pay their four months’ salaries.
The National Vice-President of the TUC, Tommy Etim, called on all the affected governors to clear “their tables” and pay all outstanding salaries before handing over to their successors.
Etim, who is also the National President of the Association of Senior Civil Servants said, “As they are leaving, they should clear their tables and pay all outstanding salaries. These governors need to know that salary is a right and not a privilege. Failure to pay will also be a huge burden on the incoming administrations.
“Also, the governors have all set up transition committees; they must include what they owe in their handover notes. Let everybody know. However, in order to avert industrial crises, they must settle the outstanding salaries and other entitlements. They should do this to redeem their images. They must clear the salaries.”
A fiscal transparency analyst, Victor Agi, kicked against the huge amount provided to ex-political officeholders as retirement benefits.
He said, “It is therefore against natural justice that people who could not substantially make a meaningful impact in the lives of ordinary people during their term in office would part with so much public fund as severance and pension for the rest of their lives.”
He added that these payments are made amid the negative growth indicators, rising inflation and huge debt burden in the country.
Agi said, “In spite of the negative growth indicators, inflation and huge debt burden staring us all in the face, to what end, therefore, are public servants parting away with so much from our coffers?
“While a ‘labourer’ is worthy of his/her wages, one wonders if many of the public servants who are expecting these severances packages would ‘handsomely reward’ an employee who had run their businesses the way they have spearheaded the affairs of the country in the last eight years.
“Reward in the form of a severance package in the public service is certainly expected, but rewarding a public servant in whatever capacity who has incurred more debt and has not added substantially to the living standard of the people is rather problematic and would mean that the country has systemised rewarding failure. This is an anomaly that we must continue to interrogate.”
A senior economist with SPM Professionals, Mr Paul Alaje, described the pay and benefits as a burden on the states.
He said, “The pension is a burden for any payer, the government and the state. It only shows that people think they don’t have a life outside political offices and that is why such an amount will be budgeted for somebody who is no longer in office and who is not contributing directly to the growth and development of the state… It is unrealistic for this practice to continue. More than 60 to 70 per cent of our states are bleeding in terms of financial boost and this continues every four years.
“What we are doing is, we are deliberately plunging our country into a coma. A time will come and we are close to it when all we are generating as internally generated revenue will just be enough salaries and pensions, and only take care of political officeholders without any infrastructural development. We must condemn in strong terms the spending of the little resources we have to better the lives of politicians at the detriment of the states.”