Court Gives SERAP Power to Stop Double Pay for Saraki, Others
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has been given the go ahead to stop former governors and now serving senators and ministers from receiving double pay and life pensions from government.
Ruling last Friday, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos held that SERAP has “sufficient interest to bring its suit to stop the payment and also seek recovery of over N40 billion of public funds unduly received by these public officers.”
In 2017, the group filed a suit to compel the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to “challenge the legality of states’ laws that allow former governors who are now senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices and to identify those involved and seek full recovery of public funds from them.”
While granting leave in the suit number FHC/L/CS/1497/17, Justice Oguntoyinbo said, “SERAP cannot be considered a meddlesome interloper or busybody in seeking to stop double pay and life pensions for former governors”, emphasising that all that mattered was for SERAP to show “sufficient interest in the application for leave to apply for an order of mandamus.”
Extensively reviewing and relying on Order 34, Rules 1(1) a, 2, Rule 3 (1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009, and quoting from several Supreme Court Judgments, Justice Oguntoyinbo insisted that, “the court shall not grant leave in mandamus application unless it considers that the applicant has sufficient interest in the matter to which the application relates.”
While stating that she was “mindful of the fact that in an application of this nature, the judge should not delve into the substance of the main issue”, she however ruled that “having reviewed the papers filed by SERAP, the court is satisfied that the organization has met the criteria set by the Rules of the Court, and as such does not consider SERAP a meddlesome interloper.”
Justice Oguntoyinbo’s ruling followed the hearing of an argument in court on exparte application by SERAP counsel Timothy Adewale. The case is adjourned to 22 March 2018 for the hearing of arguments on the motion on notice.
It would be recalled that SERAP had on 4 October, 2017 filed the suit at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, praying the court to compel “the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN to use his position as a defender of public interest to institute legal actions to stop former governors from enjoying emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their positions as senators and ministers.”
The suit read in part: “Public function should be exercised in the public interest. Double emoluments promote private self-interest or self-dealing. By signing double emoluments laws, which they knew or ought to know that they would be beneficiaries, these former governors have abused their entrusted positions, and thereby obtained an undue advantage, contrary to article 19 of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”
“Senators and ministers should not be receiving salaries and pensions running into billions of naira from states that are currently unwilling or unable to pay their workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements. National and international laws implicitly forbid public officials entrusted with public resources from granting to themselves emoluments for life while serving in other public offices including as senators and ministers.”
“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 United Nations Convention Against Corruption.”
It would be recalled that following SERAP’s letter to Mr Malami, Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki last year told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja that he wrote a letter to the state government to stop the payment of the pension “the moment I saw that SERAP allegation.” He said, “No, I’m not collecting pension; the moment I saw that allegation, I wrote to my state to stop my pension.”
So far, Dr Kayode Fayemi Minister of Mines and Steel Development and his counterparts in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, and Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola have denied ever receiving double payments and retirement benefits as former governors in addition to other roles in public office.
SERAP’s letter to Malami read in part: “According to our information, those who reportedly receive double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states include: Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); Kabiru Gaya (Kano); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Theodore Orji (Abia); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara); Joshua Dariye (Plateau), and Jonah Jang (Plateau). Others include: Ahmed Sani Yarima (Zamfara); Danjuma Goje (Gombe); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe); Adamu Aliero (Kebbi); George Akume (Benue); and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).”
“Under the Lagos Pension Law a former governor will enjoy the following benefits for life: Two houses, one in Lagos and another in Abuja estimated to cost between N500m and N700m. Others are six brand new cars every three years; furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual salary every two years, and a close to N2.5m as pension (about N30m pension annually); free medicals including for his immediate families; 10 percent house maintenance; 30 percent car maintenance; 10 percent entertainment; 20 percent utility; and several domestic staff.”
“In Rivers, state law provides 100 percent of annual basic salaries for ex-governor and deputy, one residential house for former governor anywhere of his choice in Nigeria; one residential house anywhere in Rivers for the deputy, three cars for the ex-governor every four years; two cars for the deputy every four years; 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years for furniture; 10 percent of annual basic salary for house maintenance.”
“In Akwa Ibom, state law provides for N200m annual pay to ex governors, deputies; pension for life; a new official car and utility-vehicle every four years; one personal aide and provision of adequate security; a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the governor at a sum not exceeding N5m per month and N2.5m for the deputy governor; free medical services for governor and spouse totaling N100m for the governor per annum and N50m for the deputy governor; a five-bedroom mansion in Abuja and Akwa Ibom; and allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor; 300 percent of annual basic salary every four years and severance gratuity.”
“Similarly, the Kano State Pension Rights of Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2007 provides for 100 percent of annual basic salaries for former governor and deputy; furnished and equipped office; a 6-bedroom house; well-furnished 4-bedroom for deputy, plus an office; free medical treatment along with immediate families within and outside Nigeria where necessary; two drivers; and a provision for a 30- day vacation within and outside Nigeria.”
“In Gombe State, there is N300 million executive pension benefits for the ex-governors. In Kwara State, the 2010 law gives a former governor two cars and a security car replaceable every three years; a well-furnished 5-bedroom duplex; 300 per cent of his salary as furniture allowance; five personal staff; three State Security Services; free medical care for the governor and the deputy; 30 percent of salary for car maintenance; 20 per cent for utility; 10 percent for entertainment; 10 per cent for house maintenance.”
“In Zamfara State, former governors receive pension for life; two personal staff; two vehicles replaceable every four years; two drivers, free medical for the former governors and deputies and their immediate families in Nigeria or abroad; a 4-bedroom house in Zamfara and an office; free telephone and 30 days paid vacation outside Nigeria. In Sokoto State, former governors and deputy governors are to receive N200m and N180m respectively being monetization for other entitlements which include domestic aides, residence and vehicles that could be renewed after every four years.”
“The abolition of such laws therefore is a necessary first step towards delivering on the constitutional promise of equal protection and equal benefit of the law for a distressingly large number of Nigerians. Otherwise, public officials will remain seriously out of touch with a major source of poverty and discrimination in the country.”
We Will Fulfil Paris Agreement on Climate Change—FG
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government of Nigeria has assured that it is ready to fulfil the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to ensure effective gender inclusion.
This was disclosed by Mr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, during the inauguration and inception workshop of the project in Abuja tagged The Nigeria Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT), Just and Gender Inclusive Transition (JGIT) Project.
The project is aimed at helping countries to better assess the impacts of their climate policies and actions and fulfil their transparency commitments.
Mr Ngige said the objective of the inception meeting was to launch the ICAT Just Transition project and increase awareness among the national stakeholders for a better understanding of its implementation.
He said that ICAT, an International multi-stakeholder partnership of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), was supporting Nigeria in setting up Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) of a Just and Gender Inclusive Transition(JGIT).
The minister, represented by Ms Daju Kachollom, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said Nigeria had signed a Project Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the UNOPS, represented by the ICAT management.
According to him, the PCA is to firm up the process leading to the take-off and implementation of the project over a 12 months period.
“The objectives of the project, among others, include developing JGIT monitoring and MRV and ensuring it links with the sectoral MRV system.
“Another objective is to Enhance Transparency Framework (ETF) implemented by the Federal Ministry of Environment to achieve synergy, institutional memory, and stakeholder inclusion and cooperation.
“It will further enable a tripartite cooperation between government, labour, and employer associations to achieve a Just and Gender Inclusive Transition going forward with the implementation of the Paris agreement,” he said.
The minister said that the ICAT project would be implemented by a team of national experts and international ICAT consultants under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
On his part, Dr Yerima Tarfa, ICAT, JGIT Project Team Lead, said the initiative would help to increase the overall transparency capacities of countries and assess the contribution of policies and development objectives.
According to him, this is by providing appropriate methodological information and tools to support evidence–based policymaking.
Dr Tarfa noted that Nigeria was the largest economy and leading oil producer, and most populous in Africa.
“It faces the unique challenge of having to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and increasingly, coal) while responding to the unmet energy needs of its growing population.
“Nonetheless, Nigeria is turning this challenge into an opportunity by increasing the use of renewable energy, reducing its carbon footprints, and eliminating gas flaring.
“Nigeria’s National Determined Contributions (NDCs) is committed to a 20 per cent emission reduction by 2030 unconditionally and 45 per cent conditional, with focus on power and electricity, oil and gas,” he said.
The team lead said the highlights of the NDCs include ending gas flaring by 2030 and a 30 per cent energy efficiency level by 2030.
He said the inauguration of the inception workshop would provide the opportunity to create awareness and build a national cross-knowledge sharing that would provide a platform for key stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of the Nigeria ICAT JGIT Project.
He added that this would further set up an MRV of Just and Gender Inclusive Transition and its Roadmap for implementation in Nigeria.
Appeal Court Restores Adeleke as Osun Governor
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
An appeal court sitting in Abuja on Friday upturned the judgment of the Osun governorship election tribunal, which removed Mr Ademola Adeleke as Governor of Osun State.
In January, the tribunal declared the former Governor of the state, Mr Gboyega Oyetola, as the authentic winner of the 2022 governorship election in the state.
While Mr Adeleke contested for the position under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Oyetola flew the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Adeleke was declared winner of the poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but Mr Oyetola, who contested as a sitting governor, approached the tribunal to dislodge the winner.
He argued that Mr Adeleke won through an electoral fraud, over-voting and his prayers were answered, as the tribunal upturned INEC’s decision and declared him the winner.
However, Governor Adeleke appealed the judgement and today, a three-member panel of justices held that the election tribunal erred when it ruled that Mr Oyetola and the APC proved their allegation of over-voting.
The appellate court held that Mr Adeleke was validly elected as the governor of Osun State and restored his mandate.
NDDC Seeks Partnerships to Reduce Dependency on IOCs, FG for Funding
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has disclosed plans not to rely on oil multinationals and the federal government to raise funds for development projects in the region but instead pursue Public-Private Partnerships arrangements to drive development in the Niger Delta region.
According to the NDDC Managing Director, Mr Samuel Ogbuku, this PPP model would ease the financial burden of the central government.
Mr Ogbuku, speaking during an Executive Management and staff meeting at the commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, announced that a summit was in the offing to enable stakeholders to explore opportunities for collaboration.
He stated the NDDC would not relent in its PPP campaign to bring sustainable development to the Niger Delta region.
“We intend to leverage our PPP initiative during the summit, which will take place in April. It will help us to showcase what we can offer and show the world the future of NDDC.
“We cannot continue to rely on international oil companies and the federal government to raise funds for development projects. We intend to show the world that NDDC has been rebranded.
“We will take the campaign to all relevant organisations. Last week, we were at the meeting of the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lagos. Henceforth, NDDC will be attending the OPTS quarterly meetings.”
The NDDC boss further stated that the commission would also focus on capacity building for youths in the region.
“We are going to focus on youth development programmes; we have come up with a new concept of working with the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce in the training of our youths and young entrepreneurs.
“We will show the world that we have young entrepreneurs. The various Chambers of Commerce will help us to make the programme sustainable. We will focus on empowering young people because the government cannot employ everybody.”
On NDDC’s commitment to its contractors, Mr Ogbuku affirmed that the Commission was engaging them to arrive at practicable ways of liquidating the debts saying, “We have been meeting with the contractors, and gradually, all legitimate debts will be defrayed.”
The NDDC boss said there was a need for reform within the Commission in order to bring it in line with the NDDC Establishment Act. For instance, he said, “we are reorganising the directorates to bring the number to only 13 provided for in the Act.”
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