Reviewing former governors’ jumbo pensions – Nigeria Latest News Headlines

Punch Editorial Board

After coming under a spell of protests, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has stopped receiving the monthly pension he was taking as a former governor of Kwara State. The emolument was a moral albatross on his neck for two years. He did not only stop the collection, but reportedly returned all that had been paid to him since he became the country’s number one lawmaker.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, a civil society organisation, which had accused him of being doubly paid from public funds, and described it as illegal, has been his chief nemesis on the issue. But in Saraki’s recent reaction, he said, “…the moment I saw the allegation, I wrote to my state to stop my pension… morally, if you have got another job, you should give it up until when you are truly a pensioner.” As of December 2016, about nine states had passed similar loathsome pieces of legislation providing lavish pension for their former governors. They are Lagos, Gombe, Zamfara, Kwara, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Sokoto, Rivers and Edo states.

But the Senate President was just one out of a legion of such beneficiaries in the Senate. If the legal correctness of such an entitlement is debatable, there is no question about its moral odiousness. Besides the senators, there are also such men in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.

The details of the pension packages are as revolting as they epitomise insensitivity and selfishness. Fleecing the common treasury in the guise of retirement benefits began shortly in 2007, when the governors elected in 1999 completed their tenure. But public howling against it peaked in 2015, when Godswill Akpabio, in the twilight of his eight-year tenure as governor of Akwa Ibom State, signed into law, a pension bill passed by the state’s assembly, which granted N200 million annual pay to former governors of the state. This is for life. An amendment to the law provided N100 million for medicals annually and N50 million for a deputy governor. But sustained public outrage compelled him to reject it.

Generally for all, there is a fleet of cars, fuelled and maintained by the state, furniture, renewable every four years, and building of a mansion in any place of choice. In the case of Lagos State: two houses – one in the state and the other in Abuja to boot. Since no ex-governor is a pauper, and no doubt owns a residential house in his state, the Federal Capital Territory will certainly be the preferred place: either Maitama or Asokoro, where a piece of land for such a mansion is, undoubtedly, above N100 million. In Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki’s approval of the building of a N200 million house for his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, and N100 million for his deputy, seemingly the governor’s first official duty, brought pro-government and anti-government protesters on a collision course.

Until Isiaka Adeleke’s death recently, there were 17 ex-governors in the Senate, and three former deputies. Public office demands not only unalloyed service, but also sacrifices where necessary. Unfortunately, these are in short supply in the country. Some critics suggest that the pension should be supplanted with severance packages. In fact, Nigeria’s current economic reality dictates that such obscene generous pension packages for former governors and their deputies be reviewed downwards.

State assemblies should stand up and be counted in this patriotic task. It smacks of irresponsibility, in the first place, that they enacted these reprehensible pension laws amid the poverty ravaging their people. A lot of water passes under the bridge before such legislative approval is given. Ironically, this goes against the grain of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that the legislature is an independent arm of government, primed to act as a check on the executive arm.

Democratic governance and service delivery cannot be achieved in the country, if this sacred trust is allowed to be unabashedly eroded or abused, which regrettably is the order of the day. Changing this narrative requires a strong civic engagement: development of political consciousness by the people to demand accountability from those elected to serve and protect their interests and to protest when things go wrong. Protest is an irreducible part of a vibrant democracy.

Lest, it is forgotten, some of these ex-governors are on trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for allegedly embezzling billions of naira while in office. Indeed, when almost 30 states of the federation cannot pay workers their salaries for between six and 10 months, pensioners are owed for over one year, collapse in the queues in endless data capturing undertakings and gratuities pile up, it is, therefore, extremely callous and scandalous for any ex-governor to be so remunerated in Nigeria.

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Buhari’s Return And The New Face Of APC – Nigeria Latest News Headlines

The return of President Muhammadu Buhari last weekend was greeted with wild jubilation. His presence in the country will go a long way in resolving the lingering crisis in State chapters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), expedite conduct of the party’s much anticipated national convention and reposition APC for 2019 general elections. KINGSLEY OPURUM writes

In dissecting the significance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s return to the country, some political commentators have described his return as a boon for the crisis-ridden All Progressive Congress (APC).

They believe that Mr. President’s return would proffer panacea for the festering internal party wrangling besetting the State chapters of the party and also ensure that the ruling party will, as a matter of urgency, hold its long overdue national convention, as the leadership of APC’s failure to have its convention has been linked to President Buhari’s long absence in the country.

Recall that the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, recently said that the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari from the country due to illness was stalling the APC national convention.

He said Buhari, who is a member of the party’s National Executive Council, (NEC), would have to approve the time and report submitted by the National Working Committee (NWC) before the convention could hold.

Gov. Yari further said that the party was holding talks with Yemi Osinbajo, Acting President, over the possibility of holding a mid-term convention, which was not an elective convention.

On the contrary, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State refuted the claim, saying that the absence of President Buhari in the country was not stopping the party from holding its convention.

He said that the party was still trying to put the house in order before the convention could take place.

He said, “We came to discuss issues relating to our party and our government and how to move our party forward.

“We discussed a lot of issues on how to move the party forward, how to strengthen the party and how to make sure our party remains Victorious in all elections. Very soon we will have convention that is part of the things we are discussing.

“The convention not taking place has nothing to do with the absence of the president or the Acting President. We are just putting our house in order and making sure things are in the right form before we kick off.

Meanwhile, the governing APC has not been able to organize its national convention since the party won the 2015 Presidential election. This has generated fuss over the ruling party’s inability to hold convention, as some country’s opposition parties and political observers are of the opinion that it is a result of a festering crisis rocking the APC, describing it as a political debacle that will spell doom for the party in 2019 general polls.

However the party has conducted state congresses to herald the national convention which will hold very soon. Although there were concerns in some states after the congresses, the party has started addressing the issues.

Some States where APC has crisis

The ruling APC has been enmeshed in internal wrangling in some states of the federation and these crises, many of which involve state governors and federal lawmakers, erupted few months after the 2015 general elections.

It has been reported that the crises are caused by allegations of financial misconduct, anti-party activities, ambitions, maladministration, among others by party faithful.

Some of the crises have also led to the suspension or expulsion of key members and officials of the party at the state level.

KOGI

Last year, the APC crisis in Kogi State was about a disagreement between the Governor, Yahaya Bello, and some high-ranking politicians in the State.

In June last year, members of the APC in the National Assembly from the State, House of Assembly members, members of the party’s executive in the State and other prominent leaders of the party at a meeting accused Mr. Bello of engaging in anti-party activities.

They also accused the governor of appointing more PDP members into his government than APC members.

But the crisis snowballed this year when Senator Dino Melaye fell out with the governor. The crisis engendered both verbal and legal fisticuffs between the duo. This political rift almost consumed Sen. Melaye when a vigorously pushed for the Senator’s recall manifested. But with the help of the Senate President and other Senators, Sen. Melaye was able to survive the political onslaught.

Meanwhile, the warring factions are to face a reconciliation committee inaugurated by the party.

The party’s move is to frontally take measures to resolve the crisis between Bello and Melaye and their supporters.

Odigie-Oyegun had inaugurated a seven-member reconciliation committee to end the feud.

KADUNA

The festering APC crisis in Kaduna State is majorly between the Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, and the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani.

Mr. Sani had shown interest in the governorship election in 2015 but was asked by some political gladiators to step down for Mr. el-Rufai. He therefore sought election into the Senate and won.

That was to be the beginning of the hostility between the two political gladiators and which has unsettled the State chapter of the APC.

Mr. Sani explains that the fight “is not personal, but more ideological, particularly the way our people are treated and governance is going on.”

At another forum, he said “Perhaps, it (fight) has to do with the fact that we came from different backgrounds.

But in his narration, Mr. El-Rufai, said, “Shehu Sani’s first anger was that the list of commissioners came out and none from his list.

“In a state where there are 10,000 PhDs that I have in my data base, I am going to take a diploma holder and make him commissioner just because he is Shehu Sani’s man. I don’t operate like that.

“He contested the APC primary and defeated the candidate I supported (General Sani Saleh) and after the primaries. I don’t owe Shehu Sani anything.”

KANO

In Kano State, the crisis in the APC has refused to abate. Already, the party has been factionalised in the state with Haruna Doguwa leading a faction and the other led by Abdullahi Abbas.

The major cause of the crisis is the face-off between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor and now serving senator, Rabi’u Kwankwaso.

Interestingly, both have been political soulmates for years. When Mr. Kwankwaso served his first term as Governor between 1999 and 2003, Mr. Ganduje was his deputy. Both of them also paired again between 2011 and 2015. Mr. Ganduje was the only deputy Governor in the country who succeeded his principal in 2015.

But all is not well between them though the feud is not about the governorship seat.

Mr. Ganduje has repeatedly made moves to undermine the influence of his erstwhile boss by sacking some of the latter’s loyalists, from his administration.

In May last year, the national headquarters unsuccessfully waded into the rift.

GOMBE

The APC in Gombe has been in crisis since it lost the gubernatorial election to the PDP in 2015.

The crisis began during the 2015 primary election. The party broke into two factions with one led by Magaji Doho and the other Karu Ishaya.

The factions are backed by two prominent leaders – former Governor and now senator, Danjuma Goje, and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and also a senator, Usman Nafada. Both had joined from the PDP.

When all efforts to resolve the crisis failed, the national secretariat of the APC in September last year set up a caretaker committee headed by Lawan Shettima to run the party. The committee was asked to oversee the affairs of the party for a three-month renewable period. However, some members of the factions have refused to cooperate with the committee.

BAUCHI

This is a North-east State, where there is a fierce political hostility in APC. Most federal lawmakers and other Federal Government officials from the State, notably the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, are allegedly at daggers drawn with the State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar.

The governor is accused of poor utilisation of bailout funds from the Federal Government to the State, non-payment of workers and pensioners, and offering appointments to PDP members while APC members are being removed.

In August last year, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who is from the State, led a delegation to separate meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC national leadership in search of solution to the crisis rocking the State chapter of the party.

Already, the crisis has consumed two members. In January this year, the Senator representing Bauchi South Senatorial District, Ali Wakili, and a member of the State House of Assembly representing Lere/Bula Constituency, Aminu Tukur, were controversially suspended from the party.

BORNO

In Borno, the governorship ambition of Abu Kyari, the Senator representing the northern senatorial district, has cast blight on his relationship with Governor Kashim Shettima. The rift is threatening to divide the party.

Kyari and Shettima served as commissioners under then governor Ali Modu Sheriff. Mr. Kyari also served as Chief of Staff to Mr. Shettima in the latter’s first term.

But the governor, who many believe is eyeing the northern senatorial seat in 2019, appears not to be comfortable with the ambition of his former ally.

ONDO

Although the APC won the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State, it did so as a divided house.

Prior to the election, which was won by Rotimi Akeredolu, many members of the party were already disaffected.

The disaffection extended to the national level, prompted a National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, to call for the resignation of the National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, over his (Oyegun) alleged ignoble role in upholding the primary election that produced Mr.  Rotimi Akeredolu.

Even after he was sworn in as Governor, Mr. Akeredolu’s statement has shown that the crisis may not end anytime soon. The Governor accused an unnamed Senator of the party from his state of working against his gubernatorial ambition and said he no longer considers the Senator a member of the APC.

OGUN

In Ogun State, the crisis appears to be provoked by ambition. The Senator currently representing Lagos West Senatorial District, Olamilekan Adeola, is at loggerheads with the Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, over the governorship seat.

Mr. Adeola is aspiring to contest the governorship election in 2019, but the governor, who will round off his second term in office, is said to be opposed to the senator’s ambition to succeed him.

Mr. Adeola, popularly called “Yayi,” is an ally of Mr. Tinubu. He was a two-time member of the Lagos State House of Assembly and a former member of the House of Representatives where he chaired the Public Accounts Committee.

Adeola and Amosun fell out politically in 2015 when the former wanted to return to Ogun State to contest the senatorial election to represent the western senatorial district but was allegedly blocked by the governor.

PLATEAU

In February, APC in Plateau State erupted in crisis, as some member of the state executive committee of the party rose against the chairman, Letep Dabang, accusing him of insincerity in appointments, personalization of the party, unaccountability for party funds and hijacking all contributions made to the party. The allegations were contained in a letter signed by 19 out of the 23 executive members, to the state governor.

NIGER

In Niger, there is uneasy calm in the ruling APC following the feud between the Governor, Sani Bello, and some Federal lawmakers.

David Umaru representing the Niger East senatorial district and Aliyu Abdullahi of the southern senatorial district are reportedly at daggers drawn with the governor.

The crisis in the chapter came to prominence early last year when the Senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives from the State shunned the flag-off of the local government council elections.

The lawmakers were not happy over the manner the APC candidates for the elections emerged. They were said to be angry that Mr. Bello single-handedly picked the candidates without consulting them.

Indeed the challenges abound but they are not unusual for a robust political party.

According to the national vice chairman of APC for South-south, Ntufam Hilliard Eta, the party’s convention plans are in course.

He said “We are in the process of having our convention and you are aware that about two weeks ago, we conducted congresses that generated the delegates that will come for the national convention. If we are not serious about convening this convention we will not have selected those delegates or elected those delegates to come. So I think that after our next meeting, a date shall be given for the convention.”

On of the some states where he frictions have arose after the recent congresses he said “one of the fundamental tenets of politics is conflict resolution. If there is no conflict, we find agreement to become redundant.

“In the exercise, the party recorded very remarkable success; you are just talking about two or three states out of 36 states. The party has set up committee to look into all of these matters.

“Every concern of members of the party with regards to that exercise would be addressed. But I tell you if you do your research, interrogate that particular issue, you will come to the conclusion that the party recorded remarkable feat and remarkable success.”

He added “one of the fundamentals of politics is conflicts resolution and a political party is a human organization. People who populate political party come with their idiosyncrasies and world views. In trying to cohabit in a political party; sometimes they have acrimonies, sometimes they have disagreements but let us not blow it out of proportion, these are friends and brothers. They have disagreements, what’s makes anybody believe that they cannot have an agreement. Today they may disagree and tomorrow they may agree so I believe that these things have been blown out of proportion.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PMB’s parley, why I was absent – Fayose – Nigeria Latest News Headlines

The controversial Governor of Ekiti State,Mr Peter Ayodele Fayose has revealed why he was not at today’s meeting of the 36 state governors with President Muhammadu Buhari,stating that he had a chieftaincy title to bag in Ado-Ekiti.

Fayose in his tweet handle communicated his reasons,following public condemnation that followed his perceived deliberate absence at meeting with the President.

“For those insinuating that I shunned the President’s meeting with governors,I didn’t.I had my installation as Apesin of Ado Ekiti slated for today(Friday),” Fayose said in a tweet.

ALSO SEE: What Buhari told APC, PDP leadership during a meet-up at Villa

“Guest were already in Ekiti since yesterday for the chieftaincy title installation before I received notice of the meeting with the President.

“There was no how I could have abandoned the people here in Ado Ekiti for the impromptu meeting with the President.

“Also,there is Udiroko,a major festival in Ado Ekiti,the Ekiti State Capital tomorrow to which I am committed.

Earlier today President Muhammadu Buhari met with State Governors led by the Chairman Nigerian Governor’s Forum Abubakar Yari Governor of Zamfara State in State House.


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