The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has welcomed Senate President Bukola Saraki’s move to “stop receiving pensions from Kwara state, where he was the governor between 2003 and 2011, and urges him to join us in the campaign to end the unjust, unfair and discriminatory practice of providing life pensions to former governors and to abolish laws that make this possible.”
Mr. Saraki told the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja on Tuesday that he wrote a letter to the state government to stop the payment of the pension “the moment I saw that SERAP allegation.” He said, “No, I’m not collecting pension; the moment I saw that allegation, I wrote to my state to stop my pension.”
In a statement on Wednesday by SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said, “It’s good news that Dr Saraki has publicly made known that he has stopped drawing pensions from Kwara state. We hope that other public officials still receiving double emoluments will follow Dr Saraki’s example and renounce such practice. We also urge the Senate President to publicly commit to donating to charities of his choice all pensions and allowances he has so far collected or to such emoluments to the public treasury.”
SERAP also asked “the Senate President to use his leadership position to urgently facilitate a resolution by the National Assembly condemning the practice and laws on double pay and life pensions for former governors now serving public officials; urging state assemblies to abolish such laws; and calling on those that have received such emoluments to return them to the public treasury.”
SERAP urged “Dr Saraki to work with us to put meaningful pressure on other states to abolish their unfair and discriminatory life pensions laws as well as on serving senators and ministers who continue to receive double emoluments to end the practice and return all the emoluments they have so far received to the public treasury. Dr Saraki can start by putting pressure on the governor of Kwara state Mr. Abdulfatah Ahmed and the state house of assembly to move swiftly to abolish the law that has facilitated the payment of the unjust pensions in the first place.”
It would be recalled that SERAP had last week in an open letter called on the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to within seven days challenge the legality of states’ laws allowing former governors to draw life pensions from their states.
The letter dated July 14, 2017 read in part: “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.”
“By signing such double emoluments and large benefits laws which they knew or ought to know that they would be beneficiaries, these former governors have abused their entrusted public functions and positions, and thereby obtained an undue advantage, contrary to article 19 of the UN Convention against Corruption.”
“These states’ laws allowing former governors to receive life pensions either now or in the future have a discriminatory purpose that involves an intent to discriminate against ordinary workers and pensioners. Such laws enhance the economic status of public officials and their families at the expense of the citizens that they are elected to serve, have no legitimacy at all, and cannot be justified either on legal or moral grounds.”
“SERAP is concerned that such laws have either the purpose or the effect of denying the citizens their right to the enjoyment of their commonwealth, and as such, prolonging the existing and entrenched poverty-gaps across the country. The implementation of these laws will continue to lock the citizens, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable groups, into lives of deprivation and hopelessness.”
“SERAP holds the firm view that there are clear casual and consequential links between implementation of unfair life pensions’ laws for former governors and violation of human dignity of citizens. Such laws deprive citizens of resources, capabilities, freedoms and choices necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and sustainable livelihood.”
“The abolition of such laws therefore is a necessary first step towards delivering on the constitutional promise of equal protection and equal benefit of the law for a distressingly large number of Nigerians.
Otherwise, public officials will remain seriously out of touch with a major source of poverty and discrimination in the country.”