SERAP Names Akpabio, TA Orji, Kwankwaso, Abdullahi Adamu, Others As Former Governors Receiving Double Pay

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BY AMOS DUNIA, ABUJA – The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) SERAP has responded to the request by the Federal Government through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to furnish it with the names of former governors and ministers that are reportedly collecting and/or have collected double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states.

SERAP in a letter responding to the Attorney General listed the former governors to include; Senators Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (Plateau), and Jonah Jang (Plateau). The list also include Senators Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); and George Akume (Benue).” 

SERAP however said that so far, Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, and Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation have denied ever receiving double payments and retirement benefits as former governors.

It therefore urged the Attorney General to urgently ask the anti-corruption agencies and other appropriate agencies of government to verify the claims, and investigate the cases of other former governors and ministers that have collected and/or still collecting double pay and life pensions, and to publish the findings of any such investigations.” 

The Federal Government had requested SERAP to furnish it with the full list of former governors and ministers that have received and/or are receiving double pay and life pensions to enable it ensure compliance with the judgment of the court.

This followed a letter by SERAP to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice asking his to comply with the judgment of a competent court ordering the government to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws and recover public funds collected by former governors and ministers.

SERAP in the letter addressed to Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN, urged him to advise and persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to fully enforce the judgment.

However, in his reply dated 24 February 2020 which SERAP said it received on March 2, 2020, the Attorney General of the Federation states; “I am writing to inform your esteemed organization to furnish me with the full list of the former governors and ministers which are affeced by the judgment by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo.

The Attorney General’s letter with reference number MJ/LIT/ABJ/CMC/661/793, which was signed by the Director Civil Litigation and Public Law Department, Anne C. Akwiwu (Mrs), explained that the list enable the Federal Government to enhance and ensure compliance with the ruling of the Honourable Court. Please, treat with utmost urgency.” 

In its response, SERAP welcomed the request of the Attorney General for the full list of former governors and ministers, stressing that any further delay in the enforcement of the judgment will continue to undermine the authority and integrity of the Nigerian judiciary.

SERAP’s response which was anchored by its deputy director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare further said that Nigerians cannot wait for the Attorney General to take legal action to scrap states’ pension laws and fully recover the public funds collected. 

The response by SERAP states: “Immediate obedience to the judgment will be a victory for the rule, and provide an impetus for the government’s anti-corruption fight. It will also be a rare piece of good news for the people of Nigeria, as it will send a powerful message to former governors and ministers that have collected and/or collecting double pay that they will be held to account for their actions, and mark the end of this state-level impunity. 

“We hope this judgment will be implemented duly and promptly for the sake of integrity, accountability and proper management of public resources by state governors.” 

“Complying with the judgment as promised will enhance the authority, integrity and independence of the judiciary. It will be entirely consistent with the government’s constitutional responsibility and international human rights and anti-corruption obligations.” 

“By implementing the judgment, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will be demonstrating the important role that our judiciary can play in the fight against corruption in the country.” 

“Former Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki stated that he stopped collecting pensions while in the Senate the moment he saw the allegation by SERAP. However, it is unclear if he has returned all the public funds collected as pension from Kwara State.”  

SERAP states further; “Similarly, public records also show that at least 22 states have passed life pensions laws allowing payment of life pensions to former governors and other ex-public officials. These states include: Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Edo, Delta, Kano, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Niger, Kogi and Katsina.”

“In your legal action, we urge you to focus on challenging the pension laws in these states while taking steps to verify the number of former governors and ministers that have collected and/or still collecting double payments and retirement benefits, the amount collected with a view to ensuring the full recovery of the public funds collected.” 

Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo in suit number FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 delivered a landmark judgment in December 2019, ordered the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly.

The court also directed the government to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions. 

In the SERAP’s judgment, Justice Oguntoyinbo said: “The Attorney General has argued that the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged. With respect, I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors. 

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