James Ibori (left), Lucky Igbinedion (right)
New findings by Sunday PUNCH have shown that the Edo and Delta State governments have spent over N842m on pensions and benefits for two convicted ex-governors in the last 12 years.
The two former governors, James Ibori of Delta State and Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State were convicted for embezzling public funds between 1999 and 2007.
Ibori and Igbinedion had shortly before the end of their tenure signed laws that would guarantee life pensions and several benefits for them and their successors.
Igbinedion stole billions of naira from the state’s treasury and was convicted of money laundering and ordered to return N500m as well as three houses. He was sentenced to six months in prison but given the option of paying a fine of N3.5m through a controversial plea bargain with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2008
The former Edo State governor had, while in office, signed a law which made all former governors entitled to 100 per cent of all allowances of sitting governors.
The law also makes a former governor to be entitled to an officer not above grade level 12 as a special assistant, and a personal secretary not below grade level 10 who shall be selected by the former governor from the public service of Edo State.
According to the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, a governor’s basic salary is N185, 308.75 while he is entitled to a hardship allowance of N92, 654.37 and a consistency allowance of N370, 617.50 bringing the total monthly package to N648, 580.62 or N7.7m a year.
The SA and personal secretary are not expected to earn less than N350,000 jointly based on the civil service salary structure.
This implies that Igbinedion has earned about N92.4m from the Edo State treasury since leaving office while N50.4m has been spent on his aides, bringing the total to N142m.
For former Delta State Governor, Ibori, who served between 1999 and 2007, he signed into law the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits Law 2005 which was later amended in 2009.
The law makes provision for an ex-governor to be paid allowances and other benefits which were pegged at N50m per year.
Such perks include one duplex in any city of their choice within Nigeria, one sport utility vehicle and a backup car replaceable every two years, an office with four aides, two security personnel and a monthly salary, among others.
This means that Ibori has earned at least N600m and house modestly estimated to be worth N100m bringing the total of funds spent on the former governor at N700m.
Ibori was convicted on February 27, 2012, after pleading guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and conspiracy before a Southwark Crown Court, London for stealing £250m
Defending the payment of the money to Ibori in 2012, the then Commissioner for Information, Mr Chike Ohgeah, said Ibori would continue to be paid yearly until a court nullified his tenure in office.
Ogeah said this in reaction to an affidavit deposed to by the EFCC which accused the state government of enriching the ex-governor.
He said, “The truth is that like every other elected governor who had served the state, Ibori was paid his pension entitlement and other benefits alongside his deputy under existing law. The law is the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits Law 2005 and the Delta State Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Rights and Other Benefits (Amendment) Law 2009.”
Speaking with our correspondent, the Deputy Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Kolawole Oluwadare, said the pension laws were hidden and several Freedom of Information requests sent to the several states were ignored.
He said, “We found out in the course of our research that those laws are not accessible as they should be. Laws are a matter of public records and people should have them but they are so challenging to get. They may say it is not deliberate, but if SERAP cannot get the law, you can imagine what others are facing.
“So, what we did was to write FoI to all the state governors asking if they had pension laws or not and reveal how much has been paid to ex-governors, but most of them did not respond and we have gone to court over the matter.”
Oluwadare said there was a need to scrap the pension laws rather than target only those ex-governors who had been convicted.
“Unfortunately, one thing common with all the state laws, which complies with Section 124(5)is that all the governors can only be denied benefits if they were impeached from office. So, there is no provision for what happens if a governor is convicted in these states. So, this is why you shouldn’t have those laws in the first place because if we start the argument of ex-convict, some people will still end up earning it. So, these laws shouldn’t exist at all.”
When contacted on the telephone, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, said he was not conversant with the law and thus could not tell if Ibori was still being paid or not.
Responding to a question, he said, “I don’t know, I have not read the law. Go to the House of Assembly. I have not read the law.
The Spokesman for Edo State Governor, Crusoe Osagie, also said the governor’s cabinet had been dissolved and thus he could not comment on the matter.
However, a former governor in Edo State confirmed to our correspondent that indeed he had been receiving a pension.
“It is true. I have been receiving a pension for the last ten years based on the law that was signed by Lucky Igbinedion. However, I am not entitled to N100m house like Adams Oshiomhole. I receive just about N7m a year, and I think it should be more because once you have been governor, there are certain jobs you cannot do anymore. There is a status you have to maintain,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Marcus Onobun, said the Assembly had yet to meet to discuss the possibility of repealing the pension law for ex-governors and their deputies, noting that there were more pressing issues to be tackled.
He said, “For now, we have not met concerning the scrapping of the pension for ex-governors and their deputies. But if there is anything like that, the press and the public will surely know.
“The challenge is that people look at laws from the surface and they spontaneously react to them. But if they know the details of these laws, they will understand the principle and what it seeks to achieve. I cannot tell you that we are against the payment of such pension or in support of it.
“People hear that they get jumbo pay, but the question is how much do ex-governors and their deputies earn in Edo State? But the fact is that we have not sat to discuss the issue because there are more burning and pressing issues that affect the people that we need to quickly deal with by putting the right legislation in place that will create an enabling environment for development.”