It has always been evident that the only time we recognize that we have a government is when it is the election season and the campaign bells are ringing. After the elections, whoever wins gets into power forgetting the people it galvanized for support. The people in turn forget the rallies they attended and remain disconnected from the laws and policies made by persons they voted in to promote their interests. We have too often seen a repetition of these scenarios and as a people we have allowed government officials to bask in the trend of failures and excuses for far too long while accruing to themselves the commonwealth of Nigerians.
It is now common place for most state governments to pay pension arrears to former governors who are currently earning salaries as serving senators and ministers in the country. Media reports have raised alarm on the pension benefits and arrears of former public servants in the country. Some of them who served as governors and former head of states are somehow eligible to gain access to special pension schemes made available for them in our constitutions. The law has been hijacked to make provisions for the funding of the exotic lifestyles of this group of former officials.
For instance, the retirement benefit accrued to the former governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole, and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu has been amended by the Edo State House of Assembly to make provisions for the acquisition of houses worth N300m for both beneficiaries. Other benefits attached to this provision includes pension for life at a rate equivalent to 100 per cent of their last annual salary, three vehicles to be bought by the state government and replaced every five years as well as free medical treatment for the governor and his immediate family.
This is an opportunity for Oshiomhole to show the people of Edo state that he is a man of the people by rejecting the proposed retirement benefit being suggested by the Edo state parliament. CACOL expects the former governor to reject the proposed retirement benefits because of his history as a comrade who has fought against government policies aimed at sidelining the people from the benefits of development. We are also expecting the former governor and his deputy to show the people of Edo state and the country that they are noblemen and would not stoop so low to accrue to themselves the wealth of their state.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL has condemned this legislative scam and describes it as an illogical sabotage of the law to amass wealth. It is worthy of note that just because an action is backed by the law only makes it legal but doesn’t necessarily make it right. This act is being perpetrated in many states in Nigeria where the government have found it difficult to pay salaries or provide basic amenities for the people but they still have to pay retirement benefits to these former governors for live. This issue also came up during the Senate President’s asset declaration scandal and trial where it was reported that Bukola Saraki was also receiving pension from the Kwara state government and at the same time earning salaries and benefits as the Senate President in the National Assembly. CACOL condemns this practice and for us it is a legal foul play and it is a corruption act involving the manipulation of the constitution.
CACOL already condemned the acquisition of cars by the House of Representative totaling N3.6bn which they have tried to justify on the guise of performing oversight functions. For us, it is an insult to the sensibility of Nigerians if that is the best response they can give for the numerous voices that have spoken against such wastage of funds. This is a critical time for most Nigerians as the prices of goods and cost of living is at an all time high without any significant improvement in the standard of living. We would like to reiterate that the focus should be on cutting down the cost of governance while making significant investments in improving the currently dilapidating industries that cannot provide sufficient employment opportunities for the teeming number of youths in the country. It is even worse that the response from the House shows that those who ought to represent the interest of the people are lacking in foresight and failing to see beyond their noses pertaining to the repercussion of their actions and policies.
There are also reports suggesting how some senators are exercising so much zeal to address the non-payment of salaries and allowances of former heads of state and presidents in the past 10 months. They include Alhaji Shehu Shagari; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Dr Goodluck Jonathan; former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida; General Abdulsalami Abubakar; General Yakubu Gowon and Chief Ernest Shonekan. These are men that have ruled Nigeria before and looking at our present circumstances and the failure to move beyond the description of a third world country, they should be held responsible. It is imperative to reiterate that there are some states that have failed to pay salaries of their workers for months even after the disbursement of the bailout funds from the federal government. So why is so much fuzz being made about former government heads when there are majority of Nigerians that are still living below the poverty level and can’t afford to send their children to schools let alone feed them.
The idea of governance in Nigeria is not skewed to favour the majority that go to the polls to vote. The laws of the country has been fine tuned not to develop industries, not to improve security, not to increase the standard of education; not to combat corruption, not to provide for the welfare of the people; but to create discord and maintain the exotic lifestyle of those in government and the conglomerate of former leaders. Those who have failed to have any significant impact on the lives of Nigerians with the powers they wielded. Nigerians has been forced to cater for this ‘special’ group of people who have given nothing but plummeting the country into the deeper abyss of underdevelopment.
It is quite ironical that our government is lacking in the capacity to tackle the vices confronted by Nigerians on daily basis yet the cost of running the government keeps increasing yearly. Also, the cost of maintaining the offices of public officials like the governors and president always attracts huge funds with the State having to bear the brunt of sponsoring their lifestyle even when they leave office. These set of former officials are usually in power for a stipulated number of years, usually a maximum of 8 years while we have civil servants all over the country that don’t earn as much as they do but still find it difficult to get their pensions after all their years of service to the country. This clearly shows the insensitivity of the ruling class to the welfare of those they were chosen to serve.
This is a dire situation and we are calling on every Nigerians to voice their opinions against the impunity being perpetrated by government officials. They were voted into power for the service of the people but we are the ones serving politicians in Nigeria. This has to stop we need to take our country back from those who have hijacked our government to enrich themselves and even have the audacity to make it legal.