Editorial: Nigeria’s Greedy Double-Dipping Officials

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Nothing underscores more the culture of greed, insensitivity and impunity that has crept into the public service of Nigeria than the self-serving scenario of multiple remuneration and pension schemes for serving public officers who previously served and pensioned in other capacities. This obnoxious practice aka “double-dipping” involves high office holders such as cabinet ministers, governors and senators, and top military officials, who are attracted to high office, mainly because of the material gain therein. While the standard of living of an average Nigerian deteriorates daily and majority have been taken hostage by abject poverty, disease, hunger and insecurity, its public servants and political office holders earn outlandish perks that have gone to such ridiculous levels as to be perpetuated for life. This gluttony in high places is an unbelievable shame that qualifies as a case study in selfishness. Nigeria is now a victim of her corrupt, inept, clueless and lawless leadership.

Besides blatant corruption, a perfect illustration of this culture is the sumptuous benefits to which political office holders treat themselves at the citizens’ expense. Between 2007-2015, some State Houses of Assembly passed into law; bills sent by the State Governors, to the effect that they would be entitled to atrocious perks to address post-service challenges. The packages were such that disengaging public officers, including former governors and their deputies left office not feeling the difference between in and out because their pension packages and privileges of their offices remained intact. Some former governors are now entitled to life pension at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor. In addition, they are entitled to a new official car and SUV replaced every four years, personal aide, cook, chauffeurs and adequate security detail at the expense of the state government.

And as if public resources are limitless, these ex-governors are also entitled to a befitting house not below a five-bedroom mansion in the FCT, Abuja or any place of their choice; allowances for furniture; yearly maintenance, free fuel and utilities. When this is added to the remuneration and perks of ex-governors who are now Senators, the cost of governance weighs heavily on the resources of the nation to the detriment of social services and infrastructural development. The irony of this repugnancy is that it has become pervasive at a time the country is facing the worst economic recession in decades.

Contrary to all expectations, most former governors left office and “retired” to the Senate or were appointed into the cabinet or other departments or agencies, where they continue to earn salaries and perks, in addition to their outlandish pension packages. One of the poster children of this criminality is former Senate President, David Mark (Benue South), who has been in the Senate since 1999. While in the military, he served as Niger State governor from 1984 and 1986 and retired in 1993 as Brigadier-General after serving as Communication Minister. It is standard operating procedure that all Senators get an end-of-tenure gratuity every four years. Double Dipping Senators also get pensions from their states. This begs the question: since Mark has been different persons at different times; and is still in active service earning his salary as a sitting Senator; is he entitled to pension and from which quarters?

Mark is not alone. Other double-dipping Senators include: Senate President Bukola Saraki, (Kwara 2003-2011); Godswill Akpabio, (Akwa-Ibom, 2007-2015); Rabiu Kwankwaso, (Kano 1999-2003 & 2011-2015); Joshua Dariye (Plateau 1999-2007); Jonah Jang (Plateau 2007-2015); Abdullahi Adamu (Nassarawa 1999-2007); Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto 2007-2015); Bukar Ibrahim (Yobe 1999-2007); Theodore Orji (Abia 2007-2015); George Akume (Benue, 1999-2007); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi 1999-2007); Samuel Egwu (Ebonyi 1999-2007); Danjuma Goje (Gombe 2003-2011); Sanni Yerima (Zamfara 1999- 2007); Abubakar Danladi (Taraba deputy governor 2007-2015); Eyinnaya Abaribe (Abia deputy governor 1999- 2003) and Abiodun Olujimi, (Ekiti deputy governor 2005-2007).

Third Republic governors -Muhammed Lafiagi (Kwara, 1992-1993) and Isiaka Adeleke (Osun, 1992-1993), also make the endless list of infamy, which features others like Rotimi Amaechi, Chris Ngige and Babatunde Fashola (SAN) and former Lagos State governor. As ex-governor of Nigeria’s richest state, Fashola has a pension, in addition to earnings from his law firm. It is just unconscionable that he should be earning a salary as Minister of Works, Housing and Power. There are hundreds of thousands of double-dipping public office holders like former Education Minister and now Rivers State Governor, Nysom Wike, who are stealing the nation blind. The inherent social injustice wherein ex-governors enjoy lavish, humongous pension packages and continue to enjoy fat perks of office as federal lawmakers or cabinet ministers is most difficult to comprehend. In fact, the anti-graft agencies should launch a public campaign to recover all the misappropriated funds from these double-dipping public officials, including pensioned ex-governors who are now ambassadors or head of federal departments and agencies.

There is nothing in the labor laws of Nigeria that allows for such waste of scarce public resources on people who simply migrated through a revolving door from one position to another after four or eight years. Even if one concedes the right of a governor to retire and receive a pension till death; to concomitantly earn a salary, while receiving pension is to mock the concept of true reward. This reckless squandermania practically subjects the Nigerian people to eternal servitude and make its public officials totally dependent on the national treasury for life. The audacity of this impunity is rooted in the docility of the Nigerian people, who know this is wrong and unjust, but do no more than muse and bemoan in the closet of their rooms, whereas democracy expects them to do more. They have the right of peaceful protest against the unconscionable practice. They have the right to recall all the self-serving stooges masquerading as lawmakers who participate in this insensitivity and above all, they have the right to sentence them into political oblivion by refusing to vote for them. Nigerians have become a band of docile and complacent people, who concur in the despoliation of their land by their passive indifference and cold complicity in the face of reckless, arbitrary and ungodly dissipation of their commonwealth.

With this kind of obnoxious double-dipping, competition for public office will be intensely unhealthier than it had ever been. Candidates will now be ready more than ever to kill and to destroy to get to that office, for the everlasting enjoyment and opulence it offers devoid of sweat and stress. What should worry Nigerian politicians and office holders, in all of this is that he could wittingly or unwittingly be setting a wrong precedence that does not, however, inspire confidence that tomorrow would be better than today even with a change at the helm of affairs. It seems indeed, with Buhari and the APC, it may be worse. The leaders of yesteryear did not vote so much money for life after office. And yet, they did not steal or were not likely to have stolen as callously, ferociously, brazenly and irresponsibly as the present crop of politicians do.

The President must order the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, being the constitutional organ charged with that responsibility, to undertake a review of the perks of past and current public officials. There should be no further remuneration for any past political office holders; none at all for the kleptomaniacs Nigeria is saddled with who are known to have stolen more than enough for their unborn generations of children. In the case of Nigeria’s greedy double-dipping office holders, they must retrace their steps, to shed their hard earned reputation as poster children for the republic of greed.