At a time when the Nigerian economy is at its lowest ebb, former President Goodluck Jonathan, his deputy, Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, some governors and ministers who vacated office yesterday for a new administration would be taking a whopping sum of over N29 billion from the nation’s already lean treasury as severance allowances.
Findings in Abuja and across the states reveal that the N28 billion is the least tax payers will be losing to their public office holders while the figure could be as high as double or more if full details of benefits are provided and computed.
Starting with the Federal Government, former President Jonathan, his deputy, Sambo, non-returning federal lawmakers, ministers and presidential aides will collect a minimum of N3.336 billion as severance allowances.
Though this figure represents severance allowances contained in the remuneration package approved for public office holders by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), the reality is that they represent a fragment of what they eventually go with because of various hidden payments and other huge benefits not captured in the remuneration package.
The commission, which derives its powers and constitutional functions from paragraph 32 of Part I of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution is vested with powers and responsibilities to: “Determine the remuneration appropriate to political office holders, including the President, Vice-President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers, Legislators and the holders of the offices mentioned in Section 84 and 124 of the Constitution”, among others.
According to RMAFC, Jonathan, who handed over to a new President, Muhammadu Buhari at a colourful ceremony at the Eagles Square in Abuja yesterday, is entitled to 300 per cent of his annual basic salary. His annual basic salary is put at N3, 514,705 and so his severance allowance will be N10, 544,115.
Similarly, Sambo, who is also entitled to 300 per cent of his annual basic salary put at N3, 031,572.50 will leave with N9, 094,717.50. Presidential aides numbering about 133 comprising special advisers, senior special assistants and special assistants who worked with Jonathan, Sambo and their wives will get N775, 207,125. This is because each of them is entitled to 300 per cent of their annual basic salary which amounts to N5, 828,625.
The ministers, on the other hand, will be collecting a total of N253, 967,212.5. There are 42 ministers in Jonathan’s cabinet; 31of them were senior ministers and 11 ministers of state. Each of the senior ministers would get N6, 079,200 severance allowance while each of the ministers of state would receive N5, 872,740. This means that collectively, the senior ministers would get N188, 455,200 and their ministers of state N64, 600,140 .
At the National Assembly, about 76 senators are not returning to the red chamber either because they did not stand for election or because they lost their bids to return. They are, however, entitled to N462,019,200 at the expiration of their tenure on June 5. Like the others, they are entitled to 300 per cent of their annual basic salaries as severance allowances. This amounts to N6, 079,200 per senator.
In the green chamber, about 290 members are not returning. Each of the members is entitled to N5, 955,637.50 as severance allowance. This means that the 290 members will be paid N1, 727,134,875. When added, the minimum a total of 366 non-returning federal lawmakers will be costing the Nigerian public is over N2.2 billion as severance allowance.
In the case of Senate President, David Mark and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who have both been re-elected as Senators but may not likely return as Principal Officers, they are equally entitled to the severance packages.
Mark’s annual basic salary is put at N2,484,242 meaning that the calculated severance gratuity is N7,452,727 while Ekweremadu who officially earns N2,309,166.75 as annual basic salary, would be paid N6,927,500.25 as severance.
At the state level, no fewer than 20 governors and their deputies who vacated office yesterday went with nothing less than N4.68 billions as payments in entitlements. Like those at the federal, the ex-governors were entitled to 300 per cent basic salary as severance allowance. However, various state assemblies had approved a wide range of mouth-watering entitlements for the governors that will enable them live in opulence for the rest of their life even though at the expense of the poor masses.
Those who would share the sum include: Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) Ramalan Yero (Kaduna), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Saidu Dakingari (Kebbi), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Bala Nggilari (Adamawa), Danbaba Suntai (Taraba), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Martins Elechi (Ebonyi), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Theodore Orji (Abia), and Liyel Imoke (Cross River).
Some of the extra emoluments the governors have used their state Assemblies to approve for them include 100 per cent current pay for life, one or two mansions built and furnished by the state, free medical service, fully paid annual vacation, cars and numerous aides.
For instance, in Lagos, a Pension Law, approved by former governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2007 provides for a multi-million naira severance payment after service. In addition, an ex-governor will enjoy through his life time: Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja, six brand new cars replaceable every three years; furniture allowance of 300 per cent of annual salary to be paid every two years, security detail, free medicals including his immediate families, 10 per cent House maintenance, 30 per cent car maintenance, 10 per cent entertainment, 20 per cent utility, and several domestic staff.
In Akwa Ibom also, immediate past Governor Godswill Akpabio will get N200 million as annual pay in addition to pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor, a new official car and a utility vehicle every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month, free medical services at an amount not exceeding N100 million per annum, a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom, furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years in addition to severance gratuity.
Also in some instances, like in Katsina state, immediate past Governor Ibrahim Shema, his deputy Garba Faskari and their aides were said to have been paid over N1.1 billion severance allowances and gratuities before leaving office.
Ex-Governor Shema and his Deputy Faskari had received N370 million and N217 million respectively as severance gratuity.
Apart from what the N4.68 billion shared by the 20 former governors and their deputies, findings across the states also reveal that each state will need a minimum of N1 billion to pay severance allowances to Commissioners, Special Advisers, state lawmakers and local government chairmen as well as other officials.
To justify this, a serving state commissioner told Saturday Sun: “For each state, a minimum of N1 billion will be required to pay sundry entitlements of various public office holders because the states have an average of 25 to 30 commissioners and most have as many as 500 SAs. Each commissioner won’t take less than N2m and each SA won’t go with less than N1m. That applies to the state lawmakers and LG chairmen, councillors and others.”
The official also added: “Some buoyant states equally build houses and give to these officials as benefits, all these won’t be captured in the official remuneration package approved by RMAFC.”
What this suggests is that in the 20 states where there was change of baton, a minimum of N24.68 billion would be expended on severance emoluments even when some of them were not buoyant enough to pay staff salaries for months. This brings the total figure of tax payers money to be spent for the convenience of these officials to over N28 billion.
Commenting on this, Professor of Political Economics, Ebere Onwudiwe said: “It seems to me that this severance pay tradition is a product of practice rather than a child of law. Whatever the case, it is quite obvious that the country cannot afford this level of extravagance.
“President Buhari has the moral obligation to change this and to bring it to world standards. We already live in a country where legislators go home every month with compensations above many more productive legislators around the world including members of the US Congress and of the British parliament. And don’t get me started on the governors!
“For years now, it has been claimed by some people that Buhari rejected his own pension as a former head of state as too high, accepting only ten percent of it. If this is true, he is the best man to stop the nonsense, the abuse.”
In the same vein, former Executive Director, Research, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos and Head of Department of Political Science and International Relations, Lead City University, Ibadan, Prof Chibuzo Nwoke, said such severance pay, is unbelievable and outrageous, pointing out that, “ this is happening against the background of unconscionable salary, allowances and perquisites of office they had enjoyed. Senators are reported to have been getting about N200 million every month. It is a dangerous precedence. This is a country, where the N18,000 minimum wage is hardly paid, as civil servants are owed arrears of salaries.
“ How can this be sustained? This is coming even against the huge debt burden that the country faces. This new government should cancel it. Some governors by the arrangement they put in place in their respective states enjoy pensions of huge amount of money, mansions in their states and Abuja, foreign medical treatments, cars that are renewable over a specific period of time and retinue of aides. The new government should as a matter of necessity scrap this abnormality. This is what the change mantra should also represent.”
The president he said has shown leadership by example in the way he has conducted himself after the election – obeying traffic, rejected to be driven in a Rolls Royce and flying in an economy class from London to Nigeria.
According to him “ This sends signals to people around him, in a country, where a local government chairman moves in a convoy of ten cars. He is expected to put in place excellent people of like minds.
“ This is not obtainable; not to my knowledge in United States of America that we model our democracy after. So, we should put professionals in government, not touts or ex-convicts, but established people who have something they fall back on when they leave office. “
Abubakar Tsav, ex-Commissioner of Police and Anti Corruption Crusader
This so –called severance benefits or allowance should be scrapped. It is another avenue for siphoning public funds. It is pure daylight robbery. I hope the new President will do something about it. These people including the immediate past President that are being paid this huge sum of money don’t deserve it. They don’t need it .
This is stealing in another form. In a country where millions are living in abject poverty, why do you want to waste billions of naira again on those politicians that are already overfed. This is pure rubbish. If these poilticians that parade themselves as our leaders have conscience, I expect them to reject the money.
Gen Ola Isola Williams (Rtd) .Ex-President, Transparency International, Nigeria Chapter
Most people that are patriotic and have conscience have condemned severance allowance. It is purely another avenue to loot. It must be stopped. However stopping or scrapping it may prove to be a herculean task. Why? This is because those that we look up to take action against it are also beneficiaries, that is talking about lawmakers at both states and national Assembly levels that are expected to make legistlation scrapping it.
It is also unfortunate that members of the civil society groups are not talking about it. But I will like to see a difference under Buhari. I want him to explore avenues to scrap it. It is sad that politicians in this country are spending the nation’s money on themselves rather than using such to develop the nation.
For it to be easier for us to scrap it ,all the political parties in the country should agree on the need for the nation to reduce cost of governance.
While I expect Buhari to do something about it, it is not expected to be Buhari’s policy only.It must be a policy for all the political parties whether you are in government or not to agree to reduce cost of governance.