On terminal benefits for ex-governors, others
AS various states in the nation are mired in financial crises leading to non-payment of workers for several months, one sure way to return them to fiscal buoyancy and a path of responsibility is to review or abolish outright existing laws which have inevitably constituted the hotbeds of profligacy in government.
Some of these obnoxious laws are the ones that have granted lavish retirement benefits to former state officials like governors and their deputies.
While in office, governors and their deputies live a life of luxury that negates good governance. With outrageous out-of-office benefits, they continue to feed fat on their states and maintain same extravagant lifestyles.
These swindles, euphemistically dubbed pensions, have been perpetrated against the states with the connivance of the houses of assemblies that readily endorsed the illegitimate pension laws. This is irresponsible, insensitive and should be stopped.
In the 36 states of the federation, there are such laws that grant legitimacy to channels of lavishing public funds on retired governors, their deputies and families. These laws stipulate that former governors and their deputies be granted pensions for life, free health care, security, transportation, cars and accommodation.
For instance, the Lagos State Pension Law which shares many similarities with those of other states, gives a former governor pensions for life, two houses (one in Lagos and another in Abuja), six cars replaceable every three years (three for the governors, two backup cars and another one), furniture allowance of 300 per cent of his salary as governor to be paid every two years, a security detail, free medicals for the governor and deputy as well as their families, 10 per cent of salary for house maintenance, 30 per cent of salary for car maintenance, 10 per cent of salary for entertainment, 20 per cent of salary for utility and several domestic staff.
How selfish the governors are and how absurd the pension laws are is seen in the fact that in some states, the legislations provide for estacode for a former governor and his wife for 30 days of annual vacation abroad. How sad!
No doubt, these retirement benefits constitute a heavy financial burden on the states and for those of them which must block all financial leakages in the midst of rising debts, this is unacceptable. Indeed, the financial crises in the states are an opportunity for the citizens to re-assess the notion of service that propels some citizens into seeking public office. The governors, their deputies and others who benefit from these outrageous retirement benefits see public office as a sure path to getting rich. But to break this cycle of profligacy in government, the notion of public office as an opportunity to serve the people must become imbued in the consciousness of the citizens. Indeed, those who seek public office must appreciate the fact that their reward goes beyond the pecuniary.
In the first place, it is an honour to be chosen among lots of citizens to serve and, in any case, anyone who is serving has willingly made himself or herself available for the job; without compulsion.
Moreover, it negates all sense of morality and culture of service to pay governors and deputies such scandalous entitlements while workers who are still working and sweating for the states are being owed for several months.
While the former governors and their deputies were in office, the state paid for everything they used. In fact, everything was free for them and their families. But civil servants who spent their lives working for the states and are now retired have not been paid for several months. Some of them have even died after several months of waiting in vain for their meagre pensions to be paid.
Endorsing the pension laws for governors and their deputies as they exist today is a deliberate encouragement of workers in states to go ahead to steal state funds since there is neither provision for their well-being while in service nor a safety nest when they retire.
Since the nation is at the mercy of public office holders who see their positions as opportunities to make money at the expense of the well being of the generality of the people, no one should expect them to readily support a call for the scrapping of the various state pension laws. Thus the responsibility to torpedo this perfidious system of self-aggrandisement is that of citizens.
And the call goes to the civil society to champion the campaign for the repeal of the pension laws with their sundry benefits for former leaders. These sources of financial drain on the states must be blocked to free resources for the betterment of the people.