Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has called on the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, to jettison his threat to sue the organization for revealing that former governors, who are presently serving ministers and senators, receive N40 billion life pensions.
SERAP said that Fayemi should instead “join us in promoting and supporting legislative measures to redirect public funds spent to provide life pensions to former governors for the benefit of the most marginalised and disadvantaged Nigerians, rather than issuing threat of legal action against us for exposing the existence of unfair and discriminatory life pensions states’ laws.”
SERAP had in a letter last week accused the former governors who are now serving as ministers and governors of receiving double pay and frowned at the state laws that warrant them to continue to receive pension even when they still occupy position in governance.
Fayemi, being among the former governors mentioned in the letter, had in a statement last week accused SERAP of embarrassing him by adding his name to the list of governors receiving double pay and life pensions while also receiving salaries and other emoluments as either senators or ministers.
He gave SERAP 7 days to retract the statement or face legal action.
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But SERAP in a statement on Sunday said that giving that the said law which allows pensions for governors was passed and/or facilitated and retained in Ekiti State during Fayemi’s tenure as governor of the state makes the threat by the minister to “only serve to undermine legitimate efforts to promote transparency, accountability and sustainable development in Nigeria.”
In the statement released by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP said, “As a former pro-democracy activist, Dr Fayemi is well-known to us but we do not agree with the accusation that our letter targets the minister or intends to embarrass him in any way shape or form. Our objectives remain to promote the abolition of those obnoxious states’ laws, which seek to allow former governors to receive life pensions either now or in the future when friendly governments are in place in their states, and to secure full recovery of public funds.”
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The statement further stated, “The problems of former governors receiving double pay and life pensions are real governance issues and deserve serious attention. These have to be put in the context of the allegation that state governors have over the years stolen in excess of N1 trillion including bailout funds meant for the payment of workers and pensioners in their states. By threatening legal action against SERAP on the matters, Dr Fayemi’s statement provides little more than unhelpful distraction.
“Our aim is to let Nigerians know that such laws exist in several states, and to show how much state governments can do with our commonwealth if governors can focus on the right priorities—health, education, timely payment of ordinary workers’ salaries, and backlog of pensions for millions of pensioners struggling to enjoy the fruits of their labour—rather than on signing and passing laws that allow former governors to draw unfair pay and life pensions simply for serving for 4 or 8 years.”
It concluded by noting that, “SERAP has no reason to apologise for doing our work, and will never back down from pursuing these matters, and will continue to work even harder to ensure that states’ laws allowing former governors to claim either presently or in the future life pensions are declared illegal and abolished.
“The point is not just that several of the governors listed in our letter are receiving life pensions now but also that unless those states’ laws are declared illegal and nullified, other governors that may not be presently claiming life pensions will potentially be entitled to receive such pensions in the future when friendly governments are in place in their states.”
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