SERAP Sues Nigerian Government For Failing To Recover N40Billion Double Pay, Life Pension From Ex-Governors

SERAP recalled that in November 2019, Justice Oluremi Omowunmi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Lagos told the Nigerian Government to get back the pensions that former governors who are now ministers or members of the National Assembly got while they were governors.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a contempt suit against the Nigerian government and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), for failing to recover over N40 billion in double pay and life pensions from former governors who are now serving as lawmakers and ministers.

SERAP remembered that in November 2019, Justice Oluremi Omowunmi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Lagos told the Nigerian Government to get back the pensions that former governors who are now ministers or members of the National Assembly got while they were governors.

According to SERAP, Justice Oguntoyinbo also told the AGF to challenge the legality of state laws that let former governors and other former public officials get life pensions.

SERAP, on the other hand, said that the Nigerian government has not carried out the court’s decision. It said that Justice Oguntoyinbo, who retired from the bench in April 2023, expressed “regret” that the court’s decision has not been carried out.

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Friday, SERAP filed a Form 48 contempt suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos as a notice of what would happen if Malami didn’t follow court orders. The notice said, “Unless you (Malami) obeys the court orders on the back of this process, you will be considered to have disobeyed the court orders and could be sent to prison for contempt.”

In a statement released on Sunday, SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said, “It’s not okay to take advantage of the court, which is the protector of justice in this country. A rule-of-law-based democracy can’t exist or work if the government ignores and/or doesn’t follow court orders on a regular basis.

The group said that even though a certified true copy of the judgment was given to the Attorney General of the Federation, the Buhari administration has failed and/or refused to follow it. They also said that while many Nigerian workers and pensioners have not been paid by state governors for several months and are struggling to make ends meet, former governors continue to get paid twice as much and live lavishly.

SERAP listed former governors reportedly receiving double emoluments and large severance benefits from their states include Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state; Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano state; Kabiru Gaya of Kano state; Theodore Orji of Abia state; Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa state; Sam Egwu of Ebonyi state; Shaaba Lafiagi of Kwara state; Joshua Dariye of Plateau state and Jonah Jang of Plateau state.

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SERAP said, “At least 22 states, starting with Lagos State, have passed laws that give former governors and other public officials a pension for life.” Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta, Ekiti, Kano, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Kogi, and Katsina are some of the other states.

The 20-page ruling in case FHC/L/CS/1497/2017, signed by Honourable Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo, says, in part, “The Attorney General has argued that the State’s laws that have been properly passed cannot be challenged. With all due respect, I don’t agree with the Attorney General’s claim that he can’t challenge the pension laws of the states for former governors.

The organization quoted a part of the court ruling that said, “The Attorney General is hereby directed to urgently institute appropriate legal actions 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 the former governors.”

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