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SERAP warns Tinubu to stop Wike, Umahi, and others from taking life pensions or face legal action.



The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Bola Tinubu to “publicly instruct former governors who are now serving as ministers in your administration to stop collecting life pensions, exotic cars, and other allowances from their states while they serve as ministers.”

SERAP requested him to “instruct former governors to immediately return any pension and allowances that they may have collected since leaving office to the public treasury.”

Former governors Badaru Abubakar, Nyesom Wike, Bello Matawalle, Adegboyega Oyetola, and David Umahi are currently ministers in Tinubu’s administration. Simon Lalong, Atiku Bagudu, and Ibrahim Geidam are the others.

The organization stated in a letter dated 19 August 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, “The appointment of former governors who collect life pensions while serving as ministers is implicitly forbidden by the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international legal obligations.”

According to SERAP, “you would be acting in the public interest by prohibiting former governors now serving as ministers in your government from receiving life pensions, especially given the country’s current dire economic realities.”

According to the letter, “if the ministers that the president appoints are those who collect life pensions rather than serve the public interest, then that may show little about the conduct and integrity of the ministers, but it speaks volumes about the exercise of presidential power of appointment.”

“The conduct, integrity, and honesty of the ministers you appoint to work in your government will be used to judge you in part.” Finally, the performance of the ministers you appoint will determine the success of your government.”

“While many pensioners are not paid their pensions, former governors serving as ministers receive huge severance benefits upon leaving office, and are poised to enjoy double emoluments on top of political office holders’ opulence.”

“We would appreciate it if the recommended measures were implemented within 7 days of receipt and/or publication of this letter.” If we have not heard from you by that time, SERAP will explore legal action to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“The exercise of your appointment power should be guided by ethical and constitutional safeguards and requirements, as well as the fundamental principles of integrity and honesty.”

“Stopping former governors from collecting double emoluments would be entirely consistent with the proper exercise of your constitutional power to appoint ministers.”

“By prohibiting former governors from receiving life pensions, the country’s wealth and resources would be used for the common good and benefit of socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians rather than to satisfy the opulent lifestyles of a few politicians.”

“Instructing former governors now serving as ministers in your government to stop collecting life pensions from their states would also boost public trust in your government’s integrity and honesty.”

“A constitutional oath of office requires public officials to refrain from all improper acts, including collecting life pensions, that are inconsistent with public trust and the overall goals of the Constitution.” A false oath is devoid of truth and justice. The oath statements involve pledges to protect and defend the Constitution.”

“According to our information, the following former governors are now ministers in your administration: Badaru Abubakar (former governor of Jigawa State and Minister of Defence); and Nyesom Wike (former governor of River State and FCT Minister).”

“Others include: Bello Matawalle (former Zamfara State governor and Minister of State for Defence); Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola (former Osun State governor and Minister of Transportation); and David Umahi (Minister of Works).”

“Others are Simon Bako Lalong (former Plateau State governor and Minister of Labour and Employment); Atiku Bagudu (former Kebbi State governor and Minister of Budget and Economic Planning); and Ibrahim Geidam (former Yole State governor and Minister of Police Affairs.”

“According to reports, Jigawa, Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Yobe, and Rivers are among the states currently implementing life pensions for former governors.” Many of these states owe wages to workers and are among the poorest in the country.”

“Several of these states’ pension laws provide for six cars every three years, a house in Lagos worth N750 million and another in Abuja worth N1 billion, unrestricted access to medical care, and pensionable cooks, stewards, and gardeners.”

“Additional provisions” “The incumbent governor, security operatives, and police officers permanently assigned to former governors all receive 100% annual salaries.”

“SERAP notes that in your inaugural address as president, you promised that your administration will be guided by ‘the principle of the rule of law, a shared sense of fairness and equity,’ and that ‘Nigeria will be impartially governed in accordance with the constitution.'”

“These commitments are consistent with your constitutional duties under sections 5, 130, and 147, as well as your oath of office, as set forth in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”

“By a combined reading of these provisions, your government has a legal obligation to appoint former governors as ministers whose conduct is entirely consistent and compatible with constitutional and international legal requirements.”

“These constitutional provisions also require you to instruct former governors to stop collecting life pensions and to return any pensions collected to the public treasury.”

“The country’s international legal obligations, particularly under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, impose a legal obligation on public officials to discharge a public duty truthfully and faithfully.”

“Life pensions for former governors serving as ministers are entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.”

“The convention specifically requires you and your government, in paragraph 1 of article 8, to promote integrity, honesty, and responsibility in the management of public resources.”

“Furthermore, in a judgment dated November 26, 2019, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo stated that double emoluments for former governors are unacceptable, unconstitutional, and illegal.” Indeed, previous governors receiving life pensions while serving as ministers would certainly be abusing entrusted public offices.”

“‘Public function’ refers to activities that are in the public interest rather than against it.” Former governors currently serving as ministers allegedly collecting life pensions amount to private self-interest or self-dealing. It is also harmful to the general good.”

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