By Kizito Duru.
Gov. Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has brought to an end the pensions and gratuities that accrued to former governors, deputy governors, speakers and deputy speakers in Imo. An executive bill sponsored to that effect got the governor’s assent on Friday, May 22. The governor cited the need to save cost for the state and channel money to other more important programs as one of the reasons he signed the dotted lines on the bill.
While signing the bill into law, the governor said: “As a young state grappling with enormous challenges, it dawned on me that the Imo State Governors and Speakers Pensions and Privileges law No 5 of 2007 was a bad omen. At the age our governors and speakers are leaving office it will not be out of place to assume that many of them will be alive and kicking in the next 15 years or more. This will mean that by then the state will have more than 20 governors and speakers qualified for pensions and privileges”, adding that it was unacceptable to him.
Perhaps, the signing into law of the bill abolishing pensions for former governors, deputy governors, speakers and deputy speakers could have been treated as governor’s routine performance of his duty as the number one citizen of the state, had my friend Ambrose Nwaogwugwu not taken to his Facebook wall to state what he considered the exact amount the governor have saved for the state by signing the bill into law.
Nwaogwugwu said that One Billion and Three Hundred Million Naira (N1.3bn) annually have been saved for the state by that singular act. This figure will amount to Five Billion Two Hundred Million Naira (N5.4bn) for the four years of Gov. Uzodinma’s first tenure.
It is difficult to find a former governor in Imo who is lacking financially. While as governor, they may have invested in businesses that will not only put food on their table but also the table of their children, and even grandchildren. To further service such people with a whopping N1.3bn annually is not only evil but scandalous.
As noted by the governor, former governors and speakers of the state receive bountiful severance allowance running into millions, hence they can do without the pensions. “It is more so because the same governors and speakers also receive severance allowances, amounting to several millions of Naira, when they disengage from office.
“Severance allowances are targeted at cushioning post public office financial challenges for non-pensionable positions such as Governor and Speaker. How then can the same category of former public office holders turn around to receive pensions?”, the governor wondered.
Noting the financial implications of sustaining the pensions regime for the former governors, speakers and their deputies, the Governor said: “I was alarmed that the financial implications for the state will not only be scandalous but indefensible. My simple calculation told me that there could come a time when the state could be spending more than one third of its resources to maintain former Governors and Speakers.
“This was unacceptable to me, particularly for a state that has not been able to pay the gratuities of many retired public servants.”
While in office as governor, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha did not fail to tell Imo people the pitiable financial condition of Imo State. Nothing has changed since then. In fact, it has become worse. With the COVID-19 pandemic which has crippled global economy, coupled with the all-time low price for crude oil, which is Nigeria’s mainstay, thus affecting the internally generated revenue of both the country and the states, Imo State cannot be in a condition worse than it is in at the moment.
In this milieu, Gov. Hope Uzodinma’s decision to stop unnecessary expenses by the state government for the overall interest of Imo people is not only timely and audacious, but needful and commendable.
By signing the bill into law, Governor Uzodimma also demonstrated uncommon selflessness. It did not occur to him that himself and the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly are the ‘losers’ in this development. Repealing the law that entitled pensions to ex governors and speakers means that both Uzodinma and Collins will not enjoy the largesse when they leave offices as governor and speaker respectively. But both seem not to be bothered by that thought.
Noting this apparent personal loss, the governor said: “It is noteworthy that I am supposed to benefit from this law when I leave office as governor. Yet I called for its repeal. This should leave no one in doubt that I am acting in the best interest of our state and our people. I believe that those of us who have had the privilege of occupying exalted positions must be human enough to resist the temptation of feeding fat on the lean resources of the state at the expense of the people. We must know when to say enough is enough.”
The governor was right to term the pension law, anti-people and fraudulent. In America where we copied our democracy from, after stints in public offices, leaders go back to their professional fields and live a less flamboyant lives. In Nigeria, it is worrisome that while out of offices the former public office holders are further paid from the lean resources of the state.
Despite having the backing of the law, this act is nothing short of fraud. The governor recognised this fact, and he said: “So let no one make any mistake about it. The governors and speakers pensions and privileges law was a bad law that needed to be repealed. it was anti people. It was in bad faith. It was fraudulent.”
The Governor added: “I could not condone such a law. History and my conscience will not forgive me if I do. I had no choice therefore but to ask for its repeal as part of my government’s recovery agenda. Yes, I needed to recover the billions of public funds that would have been lavished on a privileged few and plough it back to the more important business of developing our state.
“I am glad that the House of Assembly members saw reason with me and today this offensive law has been repealed.”
There is no gain saying the fact that Governor Uzodimma’s bold step as typified by his repealing of the pensions for former public office holders in Imo State will not only cushion the financial predicament of the state, but will also free some funds that could be channeled for the development of the state. Little wonder those who hardly agree with the actions of the Prosperity Government of Gov. Hope Uzodinma are quick to applaud this noble and wise decision.
- Kizito Duru is a Journalist, he writes from Owerri, Imo State. Email: email@example.com
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Kizito Duru and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”