By Olawale Abdul-Fatah
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by ex-Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Minister of Niger Delta Godswill Akpabio, Rabiu Kwankwaso and other former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly.
It also directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect life pensions.
According to our information, others who reportedly receive double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states include: Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Theodore Orji (Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (Plateau), and Jonah Jang (Plateau).
Others were: Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); George Akume (Benue); and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).
Also, at least 22 states starting from Lagos State have passed life pensions laws for former governors and other ex-public officials. Other states include Akwa Ibom; Edo; Delta; Kano; Gombe; Yobe; Borno; Bauchi; Abia; Imo; Bayelsa; Oyo; Osun; Kwara; Ondo; Ebonyi; Rivers; Niger; Kogi; and Katsina.
The judgment came on the heels of the invalidated pension law for former governors and other ex-public officers in Zamfara State, which provided for the upkeep of ex-governors to the tune of N700 million annually. The state has produced three former governors since 1999.
In the true certified copy of the judgment obtained yesterday from the court, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo followed an application for an order of mandamus in suit number FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Oguntoyinbo said: “The Attorney General has argued that the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged. With respect, I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.
“The question that comes to mind is: who should approach the Court where a particular law is not in the best interest of Nigeria as a country or National interest? Who should approach the Court where a particular law is detrimental to the interest of the country? Who should institute actions in court for the purpose of recovering public funds collected?”
In answering the questions, Justice Oguntoyinbo stressed that the Attorney General should rather be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how it affects Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation.
Oguntoyinbo has adjourned the suit to the 3rd of February 2020 for hearing on report of compliance with the court orders/judgment by the Federal Government.
Though, the Ekiti State governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, have denied ever receiving double payments and retirement benefits as former governors in addition to other roles in public office.