Governor’s Pension, Conflicts of Morality Forced the former Governor of Lagos State Babatunde Raji, Fashola to back out of package.
Barrister Raji Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, said there was a law that granted fabulous pension benefits to former Governor of the state but he declined the legal bounty as pension because his conscience did not approve of such humongous personal benefits as a reward for serving the people.
The former Governor who is presently the Minister of Works and Housing said he declined to be compensated because he was “conflicted” morally about the compensation
Babatunde Fashola, explained that his decision declining the pension was discussed at the State’s Executive Council meeting, and the minutes when it is checked would clearly reveal his opinion as he expressed in the presence of members of the state’s cabinet.
Speaking in an interview he granted Channels TV, the former Chief of Staff to former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whoM he succeeded, said: “If I understand that clearly, I think there has been this public expression of concern about certain legislation passed at the state level to compensate, as it were, people who had held offices as governors”.
Fashola spoke further about the veracity of the life pension issue as he affirmed thus, “it happened in my state but I can say very clearly that I declined to benefit and I stated clearly in a recorded minute of meeting of the government in State Executive Council, that if this was a privilege conferred on me, I had a right to refuse, which I refused and that the cabinet should record my refusal to partake because I was conflicted morally about the position”.
He further explained the rationale for his position saying, “For me, the real priviledge and honour was to serve. I have gone back to my house in Surulere and I am not collecting any emolument”.
BRF, however, made clarification of what the state government has since been remitting to him thus, “I know that there was some credit they sent, about N357,000, to my account every month and I have asked them to explain what it is for, but the money is there in my salary account”.
In essence, he declared that “so if I have collected anything, I know that is what I have collected since I left office. I have collected N357,000 monthly”.
He disclosed that, “no house was built for me in Lagos and Abuja. Unless those making the point to say I shouldn’t get paid because my salary as a minister is N900,000.00k plus or minus every month.”
Fashola, who spoke about former governors who receive their pension and still enjoy the emolument staying in the Senate or other capacities, said if the representatives of the state passed the law, then it is legal.
PUBLIC PROBITY AND MORALITY
A Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has been persistent speaking against the remuneration for former governors with luxury pension and also in the Senate earning luxury salaries and allowances.
SERAP went to court against the 22 states it established had passed laws allowing payment of life pensions to former governors and other former public officials.
The states concerned as chronicled by SERAP are, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Imo, Lagos, Niger, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Yobe, and Zamfara.
￼Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, Former Governor of Lagos State
At the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, when the nation shut its borders to all travellers with the exception for health emergencies among others, the federal government had asked SERAP to send a list of former governors and ministers that have received and/or receiving pensions.
Abukabar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice said the request was to ensure compliance with a court judgment on a suit by the rights group.
Lagos was reported as the first state to implement the pension law. It was signed in 2007 by Governor Bola Tinubu, weeks before he completed his two-term tenure.
A GLIMPSE AT THE PENSION LAW
The Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law No 11 Official Gazette of 2007 states that former governors are entitled to a house each in preferred locations in Lagos and Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Section 2 of the law as gazetted reads: “One residential house each for the governor and the deputy governor at any location of their choice in Lagos State and one residential house in the Federal Capital Territory for the governor on two consecutive terms.”
The law provides for six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the incumbent governor (N7.7million per annum), and free health care for the beneficiary and family members.
Former governors are entitled to furniture allowance – 300 per cent of annual basic salary (N23.3million); house maintenance allowance – 10 per cent of annual basic salary (N778,296); utility allowance – 20 per cent of annual basic salary (N1.5million), and car maintenance allowance – 30 per cent of the annual basic salary (N2.3million).
There is also an entertainment allowance, 10 per cent of the annual basic salary (N778,296); and a personal assistant who will earn 25 per cent of the governor’s annual basic salary (N1.9million).
A former governor is also entitled to eight policemen and two Department of State Services (DSS) operatives for life.