In recent days, the media and general public discourse has been saturated with the controversial ‘Former Governor and Deputy Governor’s Pension Bill 2014’ (Now Law, having been passed by the House of Assembly and assented to by the governor pursuant to Section 100 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which provides for procedure for enactment of Law by a State This article focuses on the germane aspects of the Law, the legal arguments arising therefrom, and the precedents of profligacies of the dispensation of Governor Akpabio.
The Law which repealed the 2006 law on pensions for former Governors and Deputy Governors of the state was received by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, on Monday 19th May, 2014, the House in a most desperate and thoughtless manner hurriedly passed it on Monday 26th May, 2014 and forwarded it to their “Oga at the Top” ( the Governor), who assented to same the following day and will take effect on 1st June.
Under Sections 1 & 2 of the Law, the benefits that will accrue to Governor Akpabio and his Deputy, Valerie Ebe, including their predecessors may be summarised thus:
pension for life at the rate equivalent to his current salary, that is, #2, 223, 705.00 and #2, 112, 215, 00 respectively as monthly and a total of #26, 684, 460, 00 and #25, 346, 580 respectively as pension, per annum; the governor is entitled to a new official car and a utility vehicle once every four years, one personal aide and the provision of adequate security for his person during his lifetime; #5 million to engage the services of a cook, chauffeurs and security guards (This is in addition to Section 1(b) which states that security shall be provided for a former governor during his lifetime). However, the deputy governor is entitled to #2 million for same purpose.
Again, the governor and his spouse are to also access an annual free medical services at a sum not exceeding #100 million naira, while the deputy governor and her spouse will take home #30 million naira in the name of medical care; Also, the governor is entitled to a befitting house not below a 5 bedroom maisonette in either the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja or Akwa Ibom State, while his deputy will pocket a yearly accommodation of 300 percent of the annual basic salary for deputy governor (#6, 336, 645). Both of them are equally entitled to an annual furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary once in every four years (#6, 671, 115 for the governor and #6, 336, 645 for the deputy).
Not satisfied, the duo will be provided with a yearly maintenance and fueling of vehicle allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary ( A total of #6, 671, 115 for the governor and #6, 336, 645 for the deputy). The obnoxious law further provides for a severance gratuity allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary as at the time the officer leaves office; (Another #6, 671, 115 for the governor and # 6, 336, 645 for the deputy). Still not contented, the law provides for a yearly “utility” allowance of 100 percent of annual salary; (With the governor taking #2, 223, 705 while his deputy takes #2, 112, 215).
To further insult the sensibilities of our people, the law provides for “entertainment allowance” of 100 percent of annual basic salary; (Another #2, 223, 705 for the governor and # 2, 112, 215 for the deputy). Lastly, the law requires the state government to make adequate arrangement and bear expenses in the case of death of a former governor or deputy governor.
The above figures are based on the approved remuneration package for state executive and local government executives as prescribed by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC and compiled by online medium, Premium Times.
The point should be made that Section 124(5) of the 1999 Constitution allows a House of Assembly to by a Law make provision for the grant of a pension or gratuity to or in respect of a person who has held office as Governor or Deputy Governor and was not removed from office as a result of impeachment and such provision shall be charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State.
However, the current law enacted by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly apart from being haramic, immoral and unpopular is offensive to and inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution.
Few examples will suffice, Section 2 of the law disqualifies a former governor or deputy governor who had resigned his position or did not stay in office up to a period of three years from benefitting from the law. This provision is legally indefensible. The sole ground of disqualification provided for in Section 124(5) of the Constitution is impeachment. The House of Assembly cannot alter the Constitution by extending its scope on the subject to include: resignation and duration in office.
The question of duration of tenure is immaterial because in the eye of the law, a person who was previously elected and had at any time (even if for a day) occupied the office of Governor or Deputy Governor is a past holder/occupant of that office and is entitled to the benefits accruing to past holders of that office. This is a man that is awaiting coronation as a Senator in 2015 and is working tirelessly to impose his stooge as successor. So why all these demands on the resources of the state?.
Another contravention is the inclusion of spouses of former governors and deputy governors as co-beneficiaries of the annual 100 million naira free medical services. This is a brutal attack on the Constitution. The spouses of governors and deputy governors are not juristic persons; call them First Ladies or whatever. They are neither recognised as officer(s) of a State nor given ANY constitutional role, therefore, their inclusion as beneficiaries of the law is unconstitutional.
By Section 1(3) of the Constitution, any law which is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is to the extent of it inconsistently void.
It will be improper to discourse the arbitrariness and insensitivityof this law in isolation, we should advert our minds to the character and modus operandi of the author of this monstrous law.
I am incline to assert that Governor Akpabio is the most profligate, imprudent and reckless spender of public funds in the history of Nigeria. We are talking about a man that has exuded unsurpassed disdain for probity and accountability. A man without a sense of history.
Least we forget, this is the same governor who impulsively and without reference to the interest of his people made the following donations: 10 million naira to the Golden Eaglets for a return leg win against Mali in an African Under-17 Championship qualifier; 50 million naira endowment fund to Nollywood; 6 million naira to six South South Zonal Chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party for lunch; SUVs to musician Tuface Idibia, and his wife Annie Macauley, and sponsored 20 members of their families to Dubai during the wedding of the couple; 35 million naira to the Education Foundation of Late Sir Ahmadu Bello; 230 million naira to President Goodluck Jonathan’s hometown on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum; 50 million naira to the victims of the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church bombing; 50 million naira to the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, etcetera.
Those who live in their comfort zones in Akwa Ibom State and those who have been seduced by the media hypes of the so-called “Uncommon Transformation” of Godswill Akpabio will not know that life in Akwa Ibom State under Akpabio is short, nasty and brutish. This is a government that struggles to pay civil servants their monthly stipends (salaries), especially primary school teachers. A government that has not reviewed the pensions of it retirees despite the review of civil service salaries in the state in 2005, 2007 and 2012 in violation of Section 210(3) of the Constitution.
The much publicised free and compulsory education of this government is nothing but a grand fraud. Education is not just about building and renovation of some class room blocks. A critical appraisal of the quality of the so-called free and compulsory education will fatally embarrassed the innocent praise singers of Akpabio’s government. Where are the 31 industries promised the people of Akwa Ibom State by governor Akpabio during his re-election campaigns? Where is the Ibaka sea port that was supposed to generate jobs?
Admittedly, the state has fared relatively well in terms of infrastructure, especially roads, but at what cost? A government that has wasted 33 billion naira in building a Tropicana Entertainment Center which was initially billed for 17billion naira; spent 18 billion naira on the Government House Banquet Hall (one of the costliest in the country) and awards contracts of roads to the tune of 1 billion naira per kilometer should not be praised blindly.
I am a proud son of Akwa Ibom State, who like most indigenes of the state, have been violently and serially raped, emasculated and insulted by a rampaging cult of kleptomaniacs who arrogantly and falsely tag themselves political leaders. And for some of us, silence is no longer golden. That haramic law for me, is the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Akwa Ibom people have had enough of this greedy, criminally minded and corrupt government and they say Enough is Enough.
Inibehe Effiong is a Human Rights Activist and can be reached via
08065142135. He is on Facebook