LAGOS—THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, yesterday, sent an open letter to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State urging him to “publicly reject life pensions and brand-new vehicles for lawmakers bill passed by the Kano State House of Assembly, and to prevail on the members of the House to immediately drop the bill, and to honour their fiduciary duties imposed by the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations.”
This came as the Executive Chairman, Centre For Anti-Corruption And Open Leadership, CACOL, Debo Adeniran declared that the current trend in the state Houses of Assembly in the country where members legislate and approve for themselves life pension is a dangerous development for the nation’s democracy.
SERAP, in a letter dated 10 May 2019 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare urged Governor Ganduje to “prevail on the lawmakers to subordinate their own interests to the public good, live on fair and equal terms with their fellow-citizens, and not to use their legislative powers to convert public resources to their own benefit.”
It, however, warned that “Should you assent to the bill as passed, SERAP will take legal action nationally and internationally to hold your government to account andensure that you uphold the solemn trust committed to you by the people of Kano.”
The statement reads in part: “This bill represents law-making in the interest and personal satisfaction of the lawmakers, which flagrantly offends the principles of legal justice and the rule of law. The lawmakers ought to subordinate their own interests to the welfare of the people of Kano. By passing the life pensions and medical trips abroad bill, the lawmakers have invariably ‘bought at their own sales’, and violated their sacred trust.
“This bare desire by the lawmakers of the Kano State House of Assembly to pass a bill to award to themselves life pensions, foreign medical trips and brand new vehicles every four years is oppressive, and violates the obligation of impartiality to the people of Kano they are elected to serve and the ideals of fiduciary government. The bill, proposed by Baffa Baba Dangundi, is a textbook case of diversion of public resources to private purposes.”
“Rather than passing bills to divert public resources for personal benefits, the lawmakers should pass legislation that will urgently address the chronic problem of over three million out-of-school children in Kano (the highest in Nigeria) and ensure immediate payment of outstanding pensions and workers’ salaries, given that your government has already received N21.7 billion from the Paris Club debt refund, and also reportedly received in 2018 N84.2 billion from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC.”
“If assented to, the bill would lead to a misuse of trust property and threaten to affect the welfare of the people of Kano by diverting public funds from development and provision of access to quality education, clean water and healthcare to the personal benefits of members of the House of Assembly.”
CACOL boss faults bill
Similarly, Mr. Adeniran spoke against the backdrop of the Kano State House of Assembly which recently approved life pension for its Speaker and Deputy Speaker
He spoke in Osogbo shortly after he presented a paper at a one-day programme by CACOL to sensitise people of the state on their rights to make the leaders accountable for the resources of the state allocated to them.
His words: “Approving pension and gratuity for principal officers of the states House of Assembly is a dangerous dimension to our national development. First and foremost, public service is supposed to be service to humanity, service to public without expecting direct reward. But since a very long time, that spirit has changed where people in the public service have used their positions to amass enormous wealth to individuals.
“Politics is not a job but a service. It is the regular jobs that people engage in that should elicit pension and gratuity because they are serving a company or an entity for a period of time during which certain percentages of their salaries would be reserved for them.
“The people that go into politics are supposed to be those who have sources of income and have something they can rely on after leaving office, not those who are trying to make a living.
“And once you are elected into political office, you are not a staff; you are a public official and you should be seen as a shining example of those making contributions that is not based on profit.
“Political office holders don’t deserve the regular payment they are paid. They don’t deserve anything more than sitting allowance. ”