A group styling itself as Concerned Lagosians has said the decision by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to stop the huge monthly pensions to three of his predecessors was more of a financial survival stunt for Lagos rather than for altruistic reasons.
It has also cautioned that civil society and other stakeholders to monitor the present the State Government to ensure it does not continue to pay these monies to the ex-Governors through the back door through nebulous tax consultancy contracts, inflated and fictitious contract awards.
In a statement titled, “The Truth behind Sanwo-Olu’s proposed cancellation of pension payments to Tinubu, Fashola and Ambode,” the group says the governor, who has received accolades for his proposal, should tell Lagosians the reasons behind the proposed cancellation instead of presenting it like an altruistic action.
Recall that days ago, while presenting budget estimates for the Lagos State government before the State House of Assembly, Sanwo-Olu announced the proposed move.
However, the Concerned Lagosians state as follows:
▪︎Ex-Governors are being paid humongous pension packages, after their tenors, by a lot of States.
▪︎The Pension Reform Act of 2004 changed Nigerian Pension system from Defined Benefits to Defined Contributions;
▪︎This means that private and public sector workers can only be paid pensions from the funds they contributed while in active pensionable work;
▪︎The salaries of Governors and their deputies are not subjected to pension deductions, their own pensions can only be fixed by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC);
▪︎Lagos State is one of the States using tax payers money to make this illegal pension payment to non-contributing ex-governors/deputies, a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul;
▪︎When Lagos State wanted to issue Bonds to raise N100billion from the Capital Market in January 2020, the Nigeria Pension Commission disqualified the Bond from accessing pension monies in custody of the PFAs;
▪︎Lagos Government had to sign an undertaking to correct the illegal pension payment provisions in its pension law before the disqualification was lifted;
▪︎Lagos was then able to borrow N100billion in January 2020 to spend on projects yet to be properly accounted for;
▪︎Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, in a suit filed by SERAP in 2017, in judgement last year December ordered that the Attorney General of the federation to challenge the legality of the pension payments to ex-governors and their deputies;
▪︎The National Industrial Court in January 2020, also declared as null and void, payment of pension and gratuity to former governors and their deputies.
This is the position of the law as of now, in the absence of any Appeal Court order setting it aside;
▪︎Lagos State intends to borrow additional huge sums of money from the Capital Market again, but it must cancel the illegal payments to governors/deputies by revoking Ex Governors Pension Law in order for PENCOM to qualify its new borrowing for PFAs’ investments;
▪︎Sanwo-Olu’s decision to cancel the ex- Governors pension law is not altruistic and should not be applauded. The decision to cancel the illegal pension is by compulsion and not by choice;
▪︎Civil society and other stakeholders must monitor the present Lagos State Government to ensure it does not continue to pay these monies to the ex-Governors through the back door through nebulous tax Consultancy contracts, inflated and fictitious contract awards.