EXCLUSIVE: How Jonathan forced Akpabio to back down on scandalous pension law

Godswill Akpabio

PREMIUM TIMES had exclusively exposed Mr. Akpabio’s plan to pocket a staggering N200 million, among other scandalous perks after leaving office in 2015.

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It was pressure from President Goodluck Jonathan that forced the profligate Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, to back down on his scandalous pension law, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.

A flustered Mr. Akpabio had last week said following nationwide outcry, he was requesting the state assembly to immediately review the law, with a view to expunging one of its obnoxious provisions.

“This is a democracy and you must listen to the voice of the people,” Mr. Akpabio had said. “What I have decided to do, in consultation with the state executive council, is to appeal to the house of assembly to immediately expunge the obnoxious provision or that which is interpreted to be obnoxious.”

Mr. Akpabio had indicated he would only expunge the provision of the law which provided for N100 million medical allowance for ex-governors. “I hope that will satisfy Nigerians,” he said.

He is, however, unwilling to give up his request for a mansion in Uyo or Abuja and a demand for N12 million medical allowance for his wife.

Pressure from above
But a Presidency source, who cannot be named because he is not permitted to speak on the matter, said Mr. Jonathan was thoroughly embarrassed by the public outcry that greeted the controversial law.

While Nigerians from all walks of life poured opprobrium on the governor and members of the state’s rubber stamp assembly for initiating and passing the law, the source said, Mr. Jonathan summoned Mr. Akpabio to the Villa.

He said the President was particularly angry that at a time the country was going through pressure over the kidnap of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram insurgents, Mr. Akpabio’s outrageous pension law had further dented the country’s image.

“Mr. President has been working hard to ensure the release of the Chibok girls and to bring an end to Boko Haram insurgency amidst strong public criticism,” the source said.

“It was shocking to know that the governor went ahead to sign the bill into law when public outcry was at its height, thereby painting the party and its leaders as being insensitive to the feelings of Nigerians.

“You remember how people went on the social media to insult the President and the first lady on the Chibok matter. The governor’s pension law was one of the actions that was going to thoroughly embarrass the government and the Peoples Democratic Party.

“That was why Mr. Akpabio was summoned to the Villa and asked to go back and reverse the law. He was particularly directed to issue a statement to reverse the law and that was what he did.

“No President dead or alive in Nigeria is entitled to such retirement perks. It was totally unacceptable and Mr. President didn’t minced words about it.”

A minister’s veiled criticism

PREMIUM TIMES further learnt that the call by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Nigerian governors to account for the funds they have received from the Federation Accounts was a veiled criticism of Mr. Akpabio.

It was one of the strongest criticisms ever made by Mr. Jonathan’s administration against some governors, who are considered “untouchable” especially in the ruling party.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, had while delivering a convocation lecture at Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State penultimate Saturday said Akwa Ibom and Rivers states received more than $3.1 billion as total federal revenue allocation in 2013.

The minister said Akwa Ibom State got about $1.7 billion (N260 billion) from the Federation Account during the year, while Rivers State got about $1.5 billion (N230 billion).

She insisted that the total amount received by the two oil producing states was about half of Ghana’s entire $6.4 billion budget.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala also explained that the two states, ranked among the top ten highest recipients of the federal allocations during the year totaling over N1.56 trillion.

The other top recipients included Delta State – N209 billion, or $1.3 billion, Bayelsa -N173 billion, or $1.1billion, Lagos -N168billion, or $1.1billion, Kano- N140 billion, or $900 million and Katsina -N103 billion, or $700 million.

The list also included Oyo State -N100 billion, or $600 million, Kaduna-N97 billion, or $600 million, and Borno-N94 billion, or $600 million.

The minister had said that these were conservative figures, as the data do not include their internally generated revenues, IGR, which are often significantly substantial enough to rival the allocations.

Further analysis of the allocations, the minister said, would show that revenue allocations to these during the year dwarfed the budgets of countries like Liberia -$433 million, Gambia -$210 million, and Benin Republic- $1.47 billion.

On a per capita income basis, which consists of the quantum of revenue per population, she said Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Delta states were the three top recipients of allocations from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC.

According to her, Bayelsa got a total of 84,500, or $545, Akwa Ibom got N55, 600 or $360, while Delta got N42,000 or $270.

When compared with the per capita incomes of neighbouring countries, the minister said many of the states receive more than what Ghana, Benin Republic, Liberia and Gambia receive.

While Ghana gets $255, Benin Republic gets $146, Liberia gets $103, and Gambia; $117.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala challenged Nigerians to call their governors to account for the huge resources they have been receiving.

A governor’s gluttonous retirement perks

PREMIUM TIMES had exclusively exposed Mr. Akpabio’s plan to pocket a staggering N200 million, among other scandalous perks after leaving office in 2015.

The governor, reputed for wasting his state’s oil money and for making outrageous donations across the country while millions of his own people wallow in poverty and disease, had attempted to secretly pass the scandalous law.

But following the report, Nigerians from all walks of life had strongly criticized him and the state’s rubber stamp assembly for passing the law, which would further impoverish the people of his state.

Initially, Mr. Akpabio scrambled to defend his action, buying prime time appearances on leading TV networks and sponsoring articles in national dailies to justify why he and his wife must live in mind-boggling opulence for the rest of their lives in a hugely indebted state where millions can’t find jobs.

A presenter in one of the private television stations, said to be a major beneficiary of Mr. Akpabio’s largesse, had come on air to defend the law, saying the governor was right to take any amount as pension “because he has done so much for the people.”

While Mr. Akpabio has rescinded part of the obnoxious law, many Nigerians have questioned the integrity and proprietary of the campaigns earlier carried out by those who saw nothing wrong in the outrageous retirement perks.

Attempts to speak with the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Rueben Abati and the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Doyin Okukpe, failed as they would not pick calls to their mobile telephones.

Texts messages sent to Mr. Abati were also not replied.


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