Amid the controversy over payment of jumbo pensions to ex-governors in the face of fiscal crisis in the states, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) yesterday clarified that the severance allowance of the former chief executives was 300% of their salary. The commission, however, added that state Houses of Assembly were empowered by law to fix pensions for their ex-governors.
The Chairman of RMAFC, Elias Mbam, spoke on the issues yesterday in Lagos while answering questions from journalists on the sidelines of a retreat organised for members and management staff of the commission. The theme of the retreat was “Consolidating the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission for Greater Efficiency: Issues, Expectations and the Way Forward.”
The retreat was opened by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, delivered the keynote address. Mbam spoke against the backdrop of the recent judgment by the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, which declared illegal pension being collected by former governors, who are now holding political offices as lawmakers, ministers, among others. The court had directed the Attorney General of the Federation to make sure the beneficiaries refund such payments and to also file a suit to challenge the legality of the pension laws for former governors, their deputies and others.
Mbam, in his response on the issue, said: “The present law that designed their entitlements is the Remuneration Act of 2008, which provides that at the end of their service they are entitled to severance allowance of 300 per cent provided that they have served for a minimum of two years. This is the only thing provided by the law for governors by that Act. So, anything outside this is not known to our own laws. But there is also a provision in the law, which permits a state House of Assembly to provide pension for their leaders. As far as we are concerned the one we know, and the one we said it should be, is the Remuneration Act of 2008, which is basically severance allowance and nothing more.”
He added that the commission would review the remunerations of political office holders to reflect the country’s current realities in line with its constitutional mandate. Mbam said the review would affect the remunerations of LG chairmen and councilors as well as commissioners, governors, ministers, the president, vice president and members of states’ and national legislatures.
He said part of the commission’s responsibility “is to do the remuneration appropriate for the political officeholders from the local council to the national level whether appointed or elected. Our work does not include those of civil servants, which are handled by the Salaries and Wage Commission. I am talking purely on the political officeholders from the council level to the presidency. That is the area we are saying that we will review in line with our constitutional mandate to align them to our current realities.”
He, however, declined to reveal whether the review would lower the entitlements of political officeholders, which most Nigerians perceived to be the highest in the world. “Well, what it will be is going to be a process. We are going to engage Nigerians both in the private and public sectors to make their inputs because remuneration is not just what you will wave your hands and say this is what it will be. This process will get us to appropriate remuneration for public office holders,” he said.
He also pledged the commission’s continued support for the diversification program of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and “implored the government at all levels to continue to support agricultural development and invest in the development of solid minerals as means of diversifying the sources of revenue in order to meet the increasing expenditure requirement of governance and development.”
Mustapha, in the keynote address, described the theme of the retreat as timely and well-conceived as it fits appropriately with the ongoing repositioning of the agencies of government to deliver optimally on their mandates so as to contribute effectively to the socio-economic development of the country. The SGF, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Political and Economic Affairs, OSGF, Gabriel Aduda, said the practice whereby the three tiers of governments are sustained by statutory transfers is no longer sustainable. According to him, “The culture is unsustainable and is increasingly becoming a source of worry particularly when one considers the decline in the quantum and demand of our crude oil upon which a greater percentage of our resources are derived.
“May I call on the commission to redouble its efforts in ensuring that all revenues generated are monitored and properly remitted into the Federation Account, as provided for by relevant laws and guidelines. The commission should beef up its advisory role to the three tiers of government on improving their respective revenue drives and also ensure that the remunerations of political and public office holders in the country are reasonable and sustainable.”
While declaring open the conference, Sanwo-Olu said the time had come for the RMAFC to use population density as a major criterion for revenue allocations. He said: “It will be necessary for me to use this opportunity to reiterate the need for the commission to take a more critical look at some of the parameters being used to determine what is allocated to each state and local government. On our part in Lagos State, we would definitely like to see a review that more accurately reflects existing national and sub-national realities, which in our case throws up the issue of population density.”