Probe Ex-Govs, Deputies’ N40bn Double Pay – SERAP

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SERAP

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, to institute legal action to recover over N40billion dubiously earned in double payment, by former Nigerian  state governors, who are now either senators or ministers.
SERAP made the appeal in an open letter to Malami, yesterday, saying, the former governors and their deputies were drawing the dubious payments based on retirement and pension laws crafted by them while in office.
It alleged that Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki (Kwara); Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara), are among former governors receiving double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states.
Others mentioned are Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); George Akume (Benue); Ms Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti); Enyinaya Harcourt Abaribe (Abia); Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Dr Chris Ngige (Anambra); and Babatunde Fashola (Lagos).
SERAP urged Malami to use his “good offices as a defender of public interest” to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, who are now senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.”
The organisation also asked Malami to “seek full recovery of over N40billion of public funds that have so far been received from those involved; and to begin to take these steps within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel the discharge of constitutional duty and full compliance with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations and commitments.”
In the letter dated 14 July, 2017, and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that, “Public interest is not well served when government officials such as former governors, deputies supplement their emoluments in their current positions with life pensions and emoluments drawn from their states’ meagre resources, and thereby prioritising their private or personal interests over and above the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
“SERAP considers double emoluments for serving public officials unlawful, as the laws granting those benefits take governance away from the arena of public interest, and create the impression that former governors acted contrary to the best interests of the general public. Double emoluments and large severance benefits for former governors now serving public officials constitute a blatant betrayal of public trust.
“SERAP is concerned that several serving senators and ministers are receiving salaries and life pensions running into billions of naira from states that are currently unwilling or unable to pay their workers’ salaries. Public office is a public trust, and as such, citizens depend upon their governors, senators and ministers to act in the public interest, not for their own or another’s profit or benefit.
“Under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, it is forbidden for any public official to engage in self-dealing, and place him/herself in a position of conflicting interests, and to hold incompatible functions or illicitly engage in providing to him/herself emoluments deemed unacceptable under international law. This is a clear case of the former governors placing their private or personal interests over and above their entrusted public functions, and unduly influencing the level of benefits they receive.
“SERAP argues that taking advantage of entrusted public offices and positions to enact laws to grant double emoluments and large severance benefits to serving public officials amounts to not only an abuse of office but also incorrect, dishonourable and improper performance of public functions, as per the provisions of paragraph 2 of article 8 of the convention.
“By signing such double emoluments and large benefits laws which they knew or ought to know that they would be beneficiaries, these former governors have abused their entrusted public functions and positions, and thereby obtained an undue advantage, contrary to article 19 of the convention.
“The double emoluments and large severance benefits laws also violate the conflicts of interest provisions of the convention. The fact that these laws are signed by former governors in the exercise of their functions as public officials and now benefiting from the entitlements under such laws while serving as senators and ministers raises serious conflict of interest issue under paragraph 5 of article 8 of the convention.
“We believe that the current Code of Conduct for Public Officials Act is outdated and entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the object and purpose of the UN Convention against Corruption, which requires Nigeria to adopt a comprehensive code of conduct for the performance of public functions and implicitly to prohibit double emoluments and large severance benefits for public officials such as former governors.