Sunday, 24th September 2023

Humongous allowances, pensions for Buhari and company

By Editorial Board
30 May 2023   |   4:10 am
Continuous pilferage of the country’s commonwealth by political office holders, through humongous allowances and takeaway benefits, has become very worrisome. This indeed constitutes a serious threat to the economic wellbeing of the ordinary Nigerian.

Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari

Continuous pilferage of the country’s commonwealth by political office holders, through humongous allowances and takeaway benefits, has become very worrisome. This indeed constitutes a serious threat to the economic wellbeing of the ordinary Nigerian. And if the new administration – across national and state levels – would not further lead the economy down the slippery slope of perdition, then a substantial reduction in the cost of governance and review of obnoxious benefits should be a priority, and not an afterthought.

Indeed, these humongous allowances and pension benefits to serving and retiring public office holders have presently become a great burden to the Nigerian economy, at the federal, state and even local levels of governance. It is sad that these benefits are being paid out despite the fact that many of the states are bedevilled with huge domestic and foreign debts, months of unpaid salaries, and pensions for their public servants. In addition, many capital projects such as roads and other basic physical infrastructures are left unexecuted with the general excuse of lack of funds. Yet, politicians religiously take care of themselves to the detriment of the general populace.
Tellingly, politics in Nigeria has become very lucrative to the extent that the primary motivation for seeking public office is the quest to amass wealth as an escape route from poverty; instead of serving the public, which has thus become a secondary consideration. The humongous perks to political office holders exemplify this.
For example, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission’s records show that aside other perks of office, the hardship allowance of the President of the Federal Republic, the Vice and that of other political office holders are in the region of N650 million for eight-year period of two terms of office. Thus, President Muhammadu Buhari has been getting N1.76 million per annum since 2015, while his Vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, got N1.52 million yearly for the past eight years. Seemingly minute as the cuts may seem, the overall implication is telling on the ordinary man, who has been at the receiving end of the immense hardship unleashed on the populace by that administration. Average Nigerians were left with nothing to cushion effects of the hardship. After all, in the words of the former Minister of Labour and Employment, “Nigerians will not die but will adjust to the economic hardships in the country”.

This also applies to the immediate past state governors, who are also having a field day with their largely undisclosed security votes while in office and other perks of power. The latest and generally disturbing trend is the promulgation, across the states, of different laws on pension benefits and allowances to take care of former governors. The take away emoluments in these laws are so mouth-watering that the quests for such offices and the danger such pose to the electoral process are growing.
Presently, not less than 18 states have promulgated laws in this regard such that outgoing state governors retire into lives of luxury. Some of these states are: Abia, Rivers, Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Cross River, and Ebonyi, among others. The multiplicities of (takeaway) benefits accruing to the ex-governors and their deputies, which vary across these states, are indeed mind-boggling. These include replacement of official and utility vehicles every four years, well-equipped offices, monthly pension equivalent to the salary of the sitting governor, brand new vehicles to be replaced after every four year, fully furnished houses, personal assistants, drivers, fully paid medical treatment within Nigeria and abroad. The list goes on and on.
And all these are happening despite these states and many others racking up unpaid salaries, and pensions, and wallowing in public debts. This is indeed unconscionable. The immediate past governors handed over to their successors over N3 trillion debts, made up of N2.27 trillion domestic debt and $1.71 billion, according to figures from the Debt Management Office. Pension laws on benefits and allowances to former political office holders seem not to take cognisance of these levels of indebtedness of the states, as they literally fritter away the states’ public resources to a privileged few, and to the detriment of the generality of the people. This definitely affects good governance in these states, and is most unacceptable.

The implication of all these economic rascalities is that the states are gradually being led in the path of economic strangulation. It is a known fact that states across the country are all battling with the provision of basic services to their people of which many of them are failing woefully. Continuously placing these extra burdens on finances of the states is morally wrong and economically unsustainable.
In the global economy where a lot of resources are being channelled to the discovery of alternative energy sources and the resort to fossil fuels for energy generation dwindling, Nigeria stands to gain by conducting a reassessment of its revenue generating strategy, if it is to survive in the coming days. This is not unconnected with the fact that the bulk of the country’s foreign exchange earnings come from crude oil or fossil fuel. A change in the global energy configuration will definitely affect the country’s earnings, and thus, the Federal allocation to the states and local councils.

Hence, a prodigal addition to the economic burden of states by such unproductive pension and benefits laws will be backbreaking and a step in the wrong direction. The new governors should take a second look at these profligate takeaway pensions and allowances for former governors and their deputies, and make a U-turn in the interest of the economic health of their states. At the federal level, the Bola Tinubu-led administration should take the issue of reduction in the cost of governance very seriously, if it does not unwittingly want to lead the country further down the path of economic perdition. 

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