Lagos State on Tuesday unfolded plans to repeal the public officials’ pension law which grants certain benefits to former elected governors and deputy governors.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who gave the hint during his 2021 budget presentation to the House of Assembly, said he would send an Executive Bill to scrap the law because the entitlements were not sustainable due to financial constraints.
The N1.155 trillion budget was christened: “Budget of Rekindling Hope.”
The governor said the repeal of the law would reduce the cost of governance and foster the spirit of selfless service.
He said: “In the light of keeping the costs of governance low and to signal selflessness in public service, we will be sending a draft Executive Bill to the House immediately for the repeal of the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension Law, 2007), which provides for payment of pension and other entitlements to former governors and their deputies.
“It is our firm belief that with dwindling revenues and the apparent inflationary rates, we need to come up with innovative ways of keeping the cost of governance at a minimum while engineering a spirit of selflessness in public service.”
The pension law was passed by the House of Assembly in 2007. Other states, including Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kwara, have also copied the law, which rights groups have criticised.
Former governors who are entitled to the benefits under the law are Alhaji Lateef Jakande (1979-1983), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (1999-2007), Mr. Babatunde Fashola (2007-2015), and Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (2015-2019).
The ex-deputy governors are Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu (1991-1993), Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele (1999-2002), Mr. Olufemi Pedro (2002-2007), Prince Abiodun Ogunleye (2007), Princess Sarah Sosan (2007-2011), Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire (2011-2015), and Dr. Idiat Adebule (2015-2019).
According to the pension law, an ex-governor is entitled to N30 million pension annually, a house in Lagos and Abuja, six brand new cars every three years, medical allowances and treatment in hospital of choice in any part of the world, and other allowances.
The implementation of the law did not take off immediately. Two years after it was passed, Alhaji Jakande said he was yet to be paid the retirement benefits.
He clarified that the provisions of the pension law was not a priority to him, adding that he received a semblance of pension almost on daily basis from admirers, particularly the beneficiaries of his free education programme between 1979 and 1983.
Second Republic Deputy Governor the late Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo, wrote a letter of complaint to former Governor Fashola over the non-implementation of the law at the time.
A Lagos Federal High Court had ordered the stoppage of pensions to ex-governors and their deputies nationwide.
The order of the court directing the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to review states’ pension laws, followed a suit filed by Social and Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP).
The Zamfara State House of Assembly, in obedience to the court order, repealed the state’s pension law.
Reacting to Sanwo-Olu plan, Lagos lawyer Jiti Ogunye, said it was long overdue.
He noted that the law was controversial, contentious, burdensome and unnecessary.
The lawyer said the repeal will herald the reduction of cost of governance and put an end to frivolous government spending.
Ogunye urged Sanwo-Olu to beam the searchlight on long governors’ convoys, saying they constituted a drain on the treasury.
A former Lagos State House of Assembly member, Sultan Adeniji-Adele, advised other governors to emulate the steps taken by Sanwo-Olu, in the light of the economic realities.