Connect with us

Opinion

The false zoning propaganda in Bayelsa West: The True position

Published

on

Share this story

We have always put out our views on the issue of the debate about zoning propagated by some persons who are scared of contesting in a free and fair election.

Our position has always been that there is no binding and valid agreement on zoning implemented at any election period in the history of Bayelsa West.

Our views are out there in the public domain and we know that have majority of the people in alignment with us. Only a tiny minority who are either afraid of contesting elections are supporting these mischief makers screaming zoning for their selfish political interests.

Our attention was drawn on to a publication yesterday by the All Progressive Congress stating their well-known position, that as far as they are concerned, there is no zoning in Bayelsa West.

This is not surprising because prior to the bye-election in 2020, this was clearly stated by all their leaders and members as they went ahead to confirm their rejection in ‘zoning’ by fielding Chief Peremobowei Ebebi, their senatorial candidate from Ekeremor LGA. Ebebi contested against Senator Dickson when Hon. Fred Agbedi an Ekeremor mab as a sitting member of the House of Representatives.

This confirms clearly that APC as a party has never believed in zoning and we agree with the position of the APC, that there is no binding and enforceable zoning agreement in Bayelsa West. It is only mischiefmakers and those who are opposed to persons with intimidating credentials who they think may contest elections that they bring up the issue of zoning periodically to go against such persons.

There are two issues involved. People confuse BALANCING with ZONING. Balancing is when the two offices are shared to both LGAs in the senatorial district. Happily, we have two large LGAs in one Senatorial District unlike the others that have three LGAs each. Therefore it has always been the practice for one LGA to take the Senate while the balance is introduced by giving the other LGA the House of Representatives. This is balancing and not zoning.

Zoning is when the various political parties and every stakeholder agrees in a binding way that a particular office should remain in a particular area for a given length of time. This is not the case in Bayelsa West and it has never been the case in Bayelsa West.

What was proposed severally was for this zoning formula to be adopted by parties and stakeholders but it has not been successful. It has always been opposed or violated. It has never been respected neither has it been implemented. It cannot even be implemented without the support of all the political parties and stakeholders who must own it and who must abide by it. This has not been the case.

For example, in the last bye-election, Hon. Fred Agbedi from Ekeremor LGA was in the House of Representatives yet people supported Chief Peremobowei Ebebi from the same Ekeremor LGA. In other words, if Ebebi had won the election, it would have meant that Ekeremor LGA would have retained both the House of Representative and the Senate seats at the same time. This was what those who proposed the Sagbama meeting wanted to avoid.

The meeting some elders and leaders organized in Sagbama where they proposed that the senatorial bye-election seat should only be kept for Sagbama was to ensure balance but the APC and their stakeholders boycotted it and instead encouraged the APC led by Chief Timipre Sylva to field a candidate from Ekeremor LGA in the person of Chief Peremobowei Ebebi believing that federal might and the treachery by some PDP leaders, would guarantee Ebebi to a win thereby leaving Sagbama LGA with nothing. This was their evil plan.

Chief Peremobowei Ebebi and the APC contested the election, went to all the courts even up to the Supreme Court to challenge the outcome of the election until they lost. It is therefore wrong, mischievous and incorrect for anyone to say the result of the election was because of zoning when the same purported zoning arrangement was violated in the first instance. It is a fact that PDP and its candidate, HE Senator Henry Seriake Dickson won the election and defended the outcome of the election up to the Supreme Court and won.

With the APC fielding Ebebi from Ekeremor and Ebebi contesting, even in the circumstances of a bye-election that had Hon. Fred Agbedi from Ekeremor LGA in the House of Representatives, that automatically meant the end of the notion of zoning in Bayelsa West. The only thing people can talk about is the notion of balancing. Meaning that, any political party can sponsor candidates from any Local Government Area provided that one Local Government does not have both. The APC and their supporters and some mischievous PDP leaders even violated the notion of the balancing.

The meeting in Sagbama that was held was a beautiful proposal and every stakeholder pleaded with the APC, Ebebi, his supporters and other political parties but it was not accepted. The proposal collapsed immediately as both the APC and PDP rejected it and went ahead and contested the election.

So the proposal from Sagbama, contrary to it being portrayed as an agreement was simply a beautiful proposal that was rejected and never implemented. The proposal collapsed immediately Chief Peremobowei Ebebi became the APC candidate. The proposal was even openly rejected by the APC, its leaders and Ebebi’s supporters.

The communiqué from the Sagbama meeting was officially boycotted by the APC which openly rejected its outcome also. The communiqué and the comments in support of the issue of zoning made by Senator Dickson and other leaders before and after the Sagbama meeting were premised on the acceptance by the APC, their candidate and other stakeholders who rejected and condemned the communiqué and went ahead to contest. As it is now, stakeholders and parties can only talk about balancing and not zoning.

A look at the political leaders and stakeholders who rejected and condemned the Sagbama communiqué on zoning even in the circumstances of a sitting member of the House of Representatives from Ekeremor, Hon. Fred Agbedi, will show that the notion of zoning is a mischievous tool employed to hoodwink our people and in particular to galvanise opposition against capable persons whose credentials they cannot match.

It is surprising that when it suits such people they discard the supposed zoning arrangement even in a bye-election with a sitting House of Representatives member from Ekeremor in place. When it suits them now in the build up to the 2023 general election, where they fear that the massive support and acceptance for His Excellency, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson will give him easy victory, in the event that he indicates interest to re-contest, these same stakeholders now turn around to say zoning, zoning, zoning.

Can those talking of zoning answer the following questions?

Why did Ekeremor leaders and those who are in support of zoning not prevail on the APC and Ebiebi not to contest in the last senatorial bye-election in 2020?

What is the effect of the so-called zoning and the communiqué at the Sagbama meeting when the APC and Ebiebi openly rejected it and protested its outcome?

Why did the APC have aspirants for the senatorial bye election from Ekeremor in the person of Ebiebi, Hon. Omonibeke and others from Ekeremor if there is a zoning policy agreed by us all?

Why did the APC not give its senatorial flag to Hon. Capt. Matthew Karimo from Sagbama or Hon. Ebitimi Angbari, Major Andrew Oputa or other leaders who were interested from Sagbama to clearly underscore zoning?

Do they know that EbIebi scored almost 20,000 votes in the last election showing that the majority of the voting public do not believe in zoning but rather voted for candidates of their choice based on capacity and party affiliation?

Do they know that even after losing the general election, Ebiebi relied on the Federal might and the treachery of some PDP leaders, to challenge the election result up to the Supreme Court where he lost?

Have they forgotten so soon that the calculation and plan of the APC and its leadership was that Ebiebi with the support of some disloyal PDP members backed by federal might would defeat Senator Dickson and create a political upset which failed woefully?

Have they forgotten so soon that both Senator Dickson and several stakeholders pleaded with Ebebi severally not to accept the APC offer in order to consolidate the proposal on zoning but they refused which made the election to be the most expensive and seriously contested Senatorial election in Bayelsa State. They did not stop there but took the litigation up to the Supreme Court.

If Ebiebi and the APC had won the bye-election or at the tribunal, would these people still be talking of zoning and what would have been the fate of Sagbama Local Government?

Do these people honestly think that blackmailing Senator Dickson and his supporters with zoning will deter him if majority of our people feel that he should re-contest?

What is so difficult for persons wanting to go to the National Assembly in Bayelsa West to campaign on the basis of their capacity and achievements rather than hiding behind a non-existent zoning policy that has never been implemented?

We ask people to look at the names of the stakeholders from Sagbama and Ekeremor in the last bye-election who at campaigns and interviews openly stated that there was no zoning and fought the election of Senator Dickson on that basis and lost. Are these not leaders and stakeholders of Bayelsa West? Are these not mischief makers who are using zoning as the only argument to fight Senator Dickson at every election in Bayelsa West when it suits them?

We are of the opinion that the zoning debate is only a propaganda weapon used against Senator Dickson and used also to destabilise the PDP in the Senatorial District and in the state in the build up to the 2023 general election.

See the list of those who said there is no zoning in the Bayelsa West Senatorial District.

  1. Chief Peremobowei Ebebi: The former Speaker and Deputy Governor was the APC candidate in the last Bayelsa West Senatorial bye-election.
  2. Chief Alex Ekiotene: An elder statesman who repeatedly said there was no zoning.
  3. Barrister F.B. Olorogun from Ekeremor town.
  4. Honourable Chief Christopher Enai: A notable political leader who argued that there was no zoning and supported the APC candidate.
  5. Chief Fedude Zimughan.
  6. Honourable Dimaro Denyanbofa from Peretorugbene.
  7. Hon Member of Ekeremor Constituency 1, Hon. Wilson Dauyegha was campaign coordinator.
  8. Chief Tobido Amanana
  9. Chief Andrew Egbagba
  10. Hinks Dumbo
  11. Ken Kayama.
  12. Elder Zee Debekeme
  13. Robinson Etolor
  14. Emar Sakor
  15. Awini Sarikeme
    16: OJ Martins
  16. Hon. Berry Enegeresin
    18: Alfred Akamu
  17. The Local Government and State officials of APC from Ekeremor and several other leaders.

Elders from Sagbama who in the last bye-election said there was no zoning and therefore supported Ebiebi even against the background of Hon. Fred Agbedi being already in the House of Representatives are as follows:

  1. Chief Nestor Binabo, former Speaker and former Acting Governor from Sagbama.
  2. Major Andrew Oputa (rtd).
  3. Captain Matthew Karimu.
  4. Hon. Ebitimi Amgbare
  5. Hon. Williams Ofoni: He was campaign manager of the APC and Ebebi from Sagbama.
  6. Richard Perekeme Kpodoh
  7. Brass Ogola
  8. Francis Kolokolo.
  9. Senator JK Braimbaifa.
  10. Dr. Stella Dorgu.

It is clear from the above that zoning during election is only a mere propaganda against Senator Dickson. They should stop the propaganda against Senator Dickson and the people of Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta in general.

If they want to contest, they should step out and contest and tell the people their achievements and what they are capable of doing instead of this propaganda and blackmail. They are free to contest on the basis of their capabilities not by political demagoguery.

Be that as it may, we enjoined these leaders to consider first, the collective interest of Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Bayelsa State, the Niger Delta region and Nigeria in general.

The Bayelsa West Youth Congress however wishes to inform that there will be a meeting on Saturday, 22nd January, 2022 to discuss critical and pressing issues concerning our Senatorial District and urges its members to attend.

Signed: Ebide Brown
Chairman, Bayelsa West Youth Congress

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Abia repeal of life pensions for ex-govs, deputies: Matters arising (2)

Published

on

By

Map of Abia State
Share this story

By Ehichioya Ezomon

While most Nigerians still clink wine glasses in toast to Abia State Governor Alex Otti for belling the monstrous cat of life pensions for former governors and deputy governors, three Abia ex-governors have punctuated Dr Otti’s enviable limelight, by denying drawing pensions, and the accompanying perquisites of office.
Under the repealed law, former governors and deputies were to be paid lifetime salaries; get houses in Abia and Abuja; receive 100 per cent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy; get two brand-new vehicles worth N20 million every four years; and have three police officers and two operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), and cooks, stewards, drivers, and gardeners.
The denial by immediate past Governor Okezie Ikpeazu (2015-2023) came on March 20 – a day before Otti signed into law the bill repealing the pensions. A statement by Dr Ikpeazu’s chief press secretary, Onyebuchi Ememanka, refuted reports “mischievously couched to give the false impression” that Ikpeazu’s among former governors receiving pensions from Abia State.
Ememanka stated: “Dr Okezie Ikpeazu wishes to make it abundantly clear that since after handing over the reins of power as Governor of Abia State on May 29, 2023, he has neither requested for, nor received from the Abia State Government, any dime under any guise whatsoever, and has no intentions of doing so.
“Former Governor Ikpeazu has since moved on with his life and is currently engaged in other areas of interest to him and advises the Abia State Government and her various organs to face the business of governance and desist from engaging in needless media sensationalism. The general public should be properly guided, please.”
Former Senator and ex-Governor Theodore Orji (2007-2015) also debunked claims of benefiting from the pension largesse, saying on March 21 that, “he hasn’t received any pension, he hasn’t asked for it, and he’s not interested in it.” Orji spoke via his former chief liaison officer, Hon. Ifeanyi Umere.
Umere said: “Nobody should link Senator Orji with the said pension law because nobody has paid him any pension after leaving office as Governor. He transited from Governor to Senate and he made it a point of morality that he will not, and he didn’t ask for any pension or question anybody about it because he is not interested in it. He didn’t receive any pension from Okezie Ikpeazu and he didn’t pay anybody, too.”
And Sen. and former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (1999-2007) – whose government established the pension law in 2001 – said he didn’t receive any pensions since 2007. One of Kalu’s aides was quoted: “As a former governor of the state, T. A. Orji did not pay him (Kalu) a dime as pension, and Okezie Ikpeazu continued in the same manner.”
Recall that Dr Kalu, fielding questions from journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja on February 20, 2017, distanced himself from the 108 ex-governors that a national daily claimed were “living off their states through pensions and other entitlements.”
As reported by Vanguard on February 21, 2017, Kalu said he hadn’t received “any payment, entitlements or privileges of any sort from his successors (Sen. Orji and Dr. Ikpeazu), adding that the Abia State government had “withheld and refused to pay his pensions and entitlements, making him the only ex-governor in the 36 states that does not receive pension.”
Kalu said on leaving government on May 29, 2007, he left behind “all the government vehicles and every other thing that belonged to the government,” and that, “none of the privileges, like security details or vehicles that accrue to former governors has been extended to him.”
Asked if he’s broke because of non-payment, and his next line of action, Kalu said: “It is not about being broke or not. The pension law of the state did not exclude me from being paid as expected. In fact, it is illegal, according to the law, to deny one his rights and privileges.”
Also reacting to the abolished pension benefits, former Deputy Governor Ude Chukwu, under the Ikpeazu regime, said: “Nobody has given me a dime. I am aware of the law. For me, it (the law) is as good as not being there. If all past governors said they have not been paid anything, what is the essence of the existence of the law?”
Relatedly, former Lagos State Governor and ex-minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has revealed that his monthly pension is N577,000, after eight years in office (2007-2015). Mr Fashola, appearing on ARISE TV programme, ‘Perspectives,’ on January 20, said:
“The benefit I get, I think, is a N577,000 monthly pension from Lagos State. So, in spite of all the stories that we got several billions of money (after leaving office), I’ve come out to deny that repeatedly. Well, I don’t know how long it lasts, but all I know is that I get N577,000 per month consistently,” without stating if he’d enjoyed the “full package” pre and post-effort by the Lagos State House of Assembly (LGHA) to halve the pensions in 2021.
The poser: If Otti’s predecessors in office denied receiving any pensions, why the Labour Party (LP) governor’s bravado to sign into law the pensions repeal bill passed by the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA)? Was it to score political points by painting black Dr Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Orji (PDP), and Sen. Kalu of All Progressives Congress (APC)?
Perhaps, Otti wanted to fulfil a campaign promise, and guard against any governor resurrecting the dead law in future. Signing the law on March 21, Otti stated: “Even before this new law came into place, a lot of people, who have followed our views in the national discuss (discourse), understand that we were not going to continue the practice of paying pensions and allowances to this set of former government officials.”
That said, pensions for former governors and deputy governors aren’t “illegal,” as the issue is perceived in the public. What Nigerians detest and question is the morality of and insensitivity in awarding huge severance pay, lifetime pensions, allowances and material benefits to former governors and deputies.
Some former governors-turned senators or ministers also receive emoluments in a couple of places: pensions from their states, and salaries and allowances from the National Assembly (NASS) or the Executive, against the rules that exempt farming as the only avenue to possibly earn extra pay, while boosting the country’s food production and security.
In 2023, some members of NASS were enticed by the mouth-watering pension packages for federal and state executives, and proposed same for the President and Deputy President of the Senate, and Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives – an incentive for State Houses of Assembly to follow suit. But the bill was shot down due to public outcry.
In the oft-quoted Lagos High Court judgment of November 26, 2019, in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1497/2017, filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo queried the legality or validity of pensions for former governors and deputy governors, but pushed the burden of discovery to the Attorney General of the Federation.
Justice Oguntoyinbo had differed from the position of then Attorney General Abubakar Malami (SAN) that, “the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged,” and said, “I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.”
“In my humble view, the AG should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation,” the judge said, and then gave the following commands:
“AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the Attorney General, AG, to urgently identify former governors and their deputies collecting pensions from their states and to seek full recovery of public funds from those involved.
“AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the AG to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, serving as senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.”
Based on the orders, SERAP asked President Bola Tinubu, in a letter on March 23, “to immediately obey,” to recover pensions collected by former governors, and to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting those involved to collect such “outrageous pensions.”
Equally instructive is an Appeal Court ruling, in suit no. CA/A/810/2017, against the Kogi State Government seeking pensions and severance packages in the state, which’s referenced by Alex Enumah in an opinion piece, “Pension Laws for Ex-Govs: The Abia Example,” published by THISDAY on March 31, as follows:
“The court held that the fact that elected public office holders and political appointees were paid huge amounts of money as monthly salaries and other forms of allowances while in office makes it morally wrong for them to demand pensions, gratuities or severance allowances for holding such an office for four to eight years as the case may be.
“The three-man panel of the appellate court, which had Justice Emmanuel Agim, Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya and Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, submitted that it amounted to gross social injustice, and unjustified in the context of the nation’s present social realities.
“The lead judgment, which was delivered by Justice Agim (now JSC), said it was wicked and morally wrong for political office holders and political appointees, who helped themselves to public funds while in office, to claim entitlement to pension and severance allowances.
“He submitted that it was wrong for political appointees and elected public office holders, who do not work as long and as hard as career civil servants to quickly get paid huge severance allowances upon leaving office, in addition to the huge wealth they acquired while holding such offices and without having been subjected to any contributory pension schemes.”
So, controversies trail pensions for former governors and deputies not for being “illegal” but because they’re overbloated, and a huge drain on the lean resources of many states, which owe months and even years of backlogs to retirees, some of who spent over 35 years in service and retired into penury, as their pensions are withheld by governors, who are “qualified” for hefty pensions and adds-on for life, and even pay themselves upfront part of the packages before they leave office.
It’s reassuring though that former Governors Ikpeazu, Orji and Kalu have denied receiving pensions, and challenged Otti’s sweeping statement that, “we were not going to continue the practice of paying pensions and allowances to this set of former government officials.” But can hundreds of other former governors – accused of drawing huge pensions and entitlements from their states – emulate the Abia trio by disavowing the allegations against them? The ball, as they say, is in their court!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Continue Reading

Opinion

Abia repeal of life pensions for ex-govs, deputies: Matters arising (1)

Published

on

By

Share this story

By Ehichioya Ezomon

Abia State Governor Alex Otti’s the rave of the moment among his peer governors, and most Nigerians, for “infrastructural development,” and particularly for signing into law a Bill passed by the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA) to repeal life pensions for former governors and deputy governors of the state.
Under the repealed law, former governors and deputies were paid lifetime salaries, and got houses in Abia and Abuja, prompting ex-Head of State and former President Olusegun Obasanjo – on a visit to Dr Otti to commend his novel move – to describe the life pension laws by state governors as “rascality” and “acts of daylight robbery,” and urged other governors to emulate the Otti example.
But did retired Gen. Obasanjo, Ph.D, also send similar entreaty to President Bola Tinubu and the National Assembly (NASS), to repeal pensions and entitlements for former presidents, vice presidents and heads of state? Or only former governors and deputies should curb their appetite for free money and materials after “retirement” from government?
Obasanjo’s advocacy should touch all former elected or appointed executive officeholders, as we shouldn’t have a “special breed” of Nigerians: former military heads of state, presidents, vice presidents, governors and deputy governors, who enjoy government’s freebies, and live in luxuries at the expense of toiling Nigerians in need of the bare essentials of life.
It’s as well to recall that in a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council at the State House, Abuja, on May 24, 2023, then Vice President Yemi Osinbajo called for an upward review of pensions for former presidents and vice presidents.
Osinbajo, referencing President Muhammadu Buhari’s “personal integrity,” said: “Part of the problem with that is that sometimes, you and I end up getting the very short end of the stick. If you look at the laws today, our retirement benefits, yours (Buhari) will be N350,000 a month by law and mine will be N250,000 per month.
“Those, of course, as you can imagine, are very tiny amounts of money. And I think that one of the things that we must do is to, perhaps, see how we can amend that law so that I will not come to you in Daura (Buhari’s hometown in Katsina State) and ask for some of your bulls to sell in order to survive.”
As Sunday PUNCH findings, first reported on May 28, 2023, indicate, “severance packages for Buhari and Osinbajo, state governors and other political appointees leaving office in 2023 might cost the country about N63.45bn,” adding that, as stipulated by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMAFC), “President Buhari will get a severance pay of N10.54m, which is 300 per cent of his annual basic salary, while Vice-President Osinbajo will receive N9.09m.”
In a manner of, “What a man can do, a woman can do it, and even better,” then First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, also solicited increased out-of-office benefits for ex-presidents and vice presidents, and for the incorporation of former first ladies “among the beneficiaries.” She spoke on May 25, 2023, in Abuja, at the launch of a book, ‘The Journey of a Military Wife,’ written by Mrs Vickie Irabor, wife of then Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor (retd).
Mrs Buhari’s plea: “The Federal Government should consider us as people that need help not as magic makers. And on the privileges given to the former presidents of Nigeria, they should do more. It is still not enough considering what people go through in that house (Presidential Villa). And at the same time, I want them to incorporate women, the former first ladies, among the beneficiaries.”
Many Nigerians have lent voices to the Otti gesture, especially coming at an time of economic strangulation of the average and below-average citizens since the advent of the Tinubu administration, following the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol, and floating the Naira, which’s crashed against major foreign currencies, and sent inflation and the cost of living sky-high.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Tinubu to swiftly obey a court judgment, which orders the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors, and to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting those involved to collect such “outrageous pensions.”
Following a SERAP suit no: FHC/L/CS/1497/2017, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo in a 20-page judgment on November 26, 2019, granted “AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the Attorney General, AG, to urgently identify former governors and their deputies collecting pensions from their states and to seek full recovery of public funds from those involved.”
“Justice Oguntoyinbo also granted ‘AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the AG to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, serving as senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.'”
Then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had argued that “the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged.” But Justice Oguntoyinbo differed, saying, “I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.”
“In my humble view, the AG should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation,” the judge said, adding, “I have considered SERAP’s arguments that it is concerned about the attendant consequences that are manifesting on the public workers and pensioners of the states who have been refused salaries and pensions running into several months on the excuse of non-availability of state resources to pay them.”
Justice Oguntoyinbo didn’t expressly pronounce on the legality of awarding life pensions to former governors and deputy governors. Perhaps, the plaintiff, SERAP, didn’t include that in its averments and prayers. Which somehow left the judge to push the responsibility to the Attorney General – “being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation” – of finding out the “legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians.”
But the National Industrial Court – as posted on the African Law eJournal on March 25, 2020 – had ruled that pensions for former governors and deputy governors are legal, as nothing in the amended 1999 Constitution of Nigeria precludes or prevents state houses of assembly from enacting laws to give such benefits to former state chief executives.
Michael Dugeri of University of Ottawa, Canada, posted the court’s ruling in the case of Incorporated Trustees of Human Development Initiatives & 39 Others v. Governor of Abia State & 73 Others, which borders on “legal validity of state pensions laws for political office holders in Nigeria.”
“The National Industrial Court, in this case, was invited to determine the question of whether any law, especially by the State Houses of Assembly, that stipulates pension of such public officials already covered by the constitutional mandate of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation & Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), is ultra vires, null and void. The Court answered in the negative,” the report said.
Yet, as first reported by Vanguard on March 24, SERAP, while noting inaction by the Buhari administration on the Justice Oguntoyinbo judgment, urges President Tinubu, in a March 23 letter by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, “to emulate the good example of Governor Otti by urgently obeying the judgment.”
“Unless the judgment is immediately obeyed, former governors and their deputies, including those now serving as ministers in your administration and members of the National Assembly who receive pensions, would continue to evade justice for their actions,” SERAP says.
“Immediately obeying the judgment would show the sovereignty of the rule of law in Nigeria and go a long way in protecting the integrity of the country’s legal system. Obeying the judgment would also show you (Tinubu) as a defender of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the rule of law, and public interest within government,” SERAP adds.
SERAP lists former governors, “who continue to collect double emoluments and large severance benefits” from 22 states, including Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta, Ekiti, Kano, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Niger, Kogi, and Katsina.
As reported by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on March 20, the Abia pensions repeal law isn’t the first, as a few states had moved to abolish the law, but “many states showed nonchalant attitude toward doing so.” Still, the “Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors’ (Repeal) Law 2024,” which took effect immediately on Thursday, March 21, 2024, after Governor Otti signed it, forecloses former governors and deputy governors earning pensions.
But did the Abia repealed pensions law include other perquisites of office, which make the pensions per se to look like pocket money for a boarding-house student, who doesn’t really need extra money, as their parents or guardians have settled accommodation, feeding and provisions for them?
This and more will be explored in part 2 of the series, amid denial by two former governors of Abia State, Sen. Theodore Orji and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, of receiving pensions since they left office, even as Governor Otti continues to enjoy the limelight of abolishing pensions for former governors and deputy governors of Abia State!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Continue Reading

Opinion

Dickson Tarkighir at 55: A study in doggdness

Published

on

By

Dickson Tarkighir
Share this story

By Tunde Olusunle

Many of his kinsmen and friends had a good laugh the day he was inaugurated into the eighth assembly of the House of Representatives, June 2015. Most probably unsure how to pronounce his surname, the Clerk of the “green chambers” as the lower deck of the national parliament is described, opted for a spontaneous improvisation.
Rather than set his tongue against his teeth, the Clerk after correctly pronouncing his first names settled for a simpler *Takiri!* By some coincidence, Tivlumun Nyitse my brother from our university days and cousin to *Takiri* and I watched the live telecast of that ceremony together. We had a very sumptuous laugh and called to congratulate him later that day. We reaffirmed he would have to don his new “baptismal necklace” for times to come and could hear his guffaw in the background. He took it in good spirits and has never made a fuss about it.

Dickson Dominic Tarkighir on that occasion was inaugurated as Member Representing Makurdi/Guma federal constituency of Benue State. I have been privileged over time to have met and developed relationships with sections of the Benue State middle class and political elite. I had encountered the amiable George Akume, (incumbent Secretary to the Government of the Federation), and the departed Ogirri Ajene his deputy, when they both governed the state between 1999 and 2007. Governors, (and their deputies when assigned), regularly had engagements in the State House where I functioned from under the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar government. As “groundsmen” in Aso Villa, there was always the possibility of meeting dignitaries at that level. They were equally delighted to have you as a “strategic ally.” I’m also a friend of the affable Gabriel Torwua Suswam who succeeded Akume as governor in 2007 and Samuel Ioraer Ortom who took over from Suswam in 2015.

Four friends have also impacted my integration into Benue State where I’ve developed a broad network of friendships and acquaintances. Nyitse, my classmate since my first day in the University of Ilorin who is presently an associate professor of journalism has been most catalytic in this regard. He served as Permanent Secretary in the Benue State civil service for about 10 years and commands quite some respect in the Benue system. Through Tony Olofu, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, (AIG) with whom I went through the National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC) in Imo State between 1985 and 1986, I’ve also made friends from that sociocultural space. Shiaondo Aarga, alumnus of the University of Ilorin like Nyitse and I who also retired Permanent Secretary in Benue State, has also aided my acculturation. Shima Ayati was my colleague in the Obasanjo/Atiku government and we remain best of friends today.

I met Dickson Tarkighir through Tivlumun Nyitse when Nyitse was Permanent Secretary, Government House Administration, (PS-GHA) in the Suswam administration, almost two decades ago. Tarkighir was Managing Director of *Triggar and Gibbons Ltd,* an advertising and logistics support service company which was foraging for business opportunities in Benue State. I was a regular face in Benue State those years because I had a consultancy liaison with the government. Tarkighir’s outfit may rightly be described as the precursor of electronic billboards in Benue State. Tarkighir had successfully experimented with the concept in Kaduna and found new grounds in his home state. Nyitse’s office was the engine room of the Suswam administration which processed the governor’s instructions and conveyances to the various ministries, departments and agencies, (MDAs). The personable, outgoing Tarkighir was a regular caller in Government House, Makurdi ensuring alignment between the vision of government and the electronic copies that were displayed for public consumption.

A multitasking entrepreneur, Tarkighir had previously setup *Dasnett Mobile Services Ltd,* with the coming to be of GSM services to Nigeria over 20 years ago. He impacted the entertainment space of Makurdi the Benue State capital by establishing a classy, integrated nightclub and services outfit. Located at the very heart of Makurdi, he christened it *District 4 Lounge.* Its ancillaries included a functional restaurant and a bakery. He developed it into perhaps the most sought-after hangout in the city, a preferred destination for high octane visitors to the state, previously pampered ostensibly, by mouthwatering options in bigger cities. Tarkighir is a notably hands-on executive whose presence and subtle guidance of his staff on reminds of the doting style of Ken Calebs-Olumhense, the iconic proprietor of *Niteshift* those good old days in Lagos.

Governor Gabriel Suswam took special note of Tarkighir’s exertions and innovative strides and engaged him as Senior Special Assistant, (SSA) on Industries, in 2009. He was reappointed in 2011 following Suswam’s reelection. Tarkighir resigned his appointment in 2014 to contest for a seat in the federal parliament. He dared unfamiliar grounds in his quest for the House of Representatives office when he defected from the better established Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP), to the fledgling All Progressives Congress, (APC). He triumphed at the polls as part of the countrywide *tsunami* which displaced the PDP from the centre of national politics at the 2015 general elections. It seemed well advised therefore that he took the gamble of defection to and running on the platform of the APC.

Despite being a first timer in the congress, Tarkighir was proactive. First, he was keen on learning the ropes. He was listed to serve in nearly a dozen committees of the parliament which was good for requisite exposure. He was in the appropriation; defence; petroleum (downstream); population; navy; health services; Niger Delta affairs; inter-parliamentary; integration in Africa and the ECOWAS parliament committees in the House. With the hindsight of creeping unemployment in the country, he advised that the 25,000 ghost workers discovered by the federal government at the time, be replaced with genuine job seekers. He imposed upon himself the responsibility of unearthing vacancies in MDAs and assisting his primary constituents wherever he could. He soon donned the alias of “Mr Employment” amongst his constituents as attestation to his efforts.

Tarkighir sponsored several bills and motions. Agonised by the ravaging Fulani incursions into his state for example, he sought the creation of a cattle ranching department in the federal ministry of agriculture. He also sponsored bills on healthcare; internet security; need for special attention for hydroelectric power producing areas, among others. His motions encompassed those requesting support for his flood-devastated constituency; the need for the rehabilitation of the Makurdi-Gboko federal highway and the imperative for the declaration of a state of emergency on deadly attacks by herdsmen across the country. Tarkighir prosecuted a plethora of projects in his constituency for the betterment of the lives of his people.

Solar-powered street lights; electric transformers; boreholes; sewing machines; cassava processing equipment; submersible pumps; bicycles; tricycles and laptops were some of the life-improving accessories he availed his constituents. Medical outreaches were organised for mass enlightenment, even as skills acquisition programmes were also prosecuted. Tarkighir equally facilitated the completion of the *Akaakuma* dam, and the construction of residential quarters for the divisional police officer in *Gbajimba* within his constituency, and a primary school in *Ngban* in *Guma* local government area. Tarkighir didn’t win reelection in 2019. He refocused on his core entrepreneurship concerns always never forgetting the adage about charity beginning at home. He rehabilitated and expanded his *District 4* model through which he rescued a few more youths from the hungry streets. “I’ve been there, Oga Tunde,” he tells me about his experiences growing up, his mien suddenly sobering. “It’s not easy out there.” Dickson Tarkighir won the Makurdi/Guma federal constituency seat at the 2023 polls and has since returned to the 10th Assembly of the House of Representatives.

He was born April 12, 1969 in Makurdi and attended St. Thomas Primary School, *Ibume* between 1976 and 1981. He proceeded to *Nongov* Community Secondary School in *Tse-Kyo,* in *Guma* LGA. He obtained a bachelors degree in business administration from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State in 2003. He thereafter consolidated his thirst for knowledge in this specialty by earning a masters also in business administration from the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU), Zaria, in 2008. An indomitable quester for new vistas, he previously cut his career dentition with Mojo Electronics, Umuahia, Abia State, between 1988 and 1991. He also worked in the Kaduna station of the now defunct *Okada* airlines from 1992 to 1995. These were cross-country toughening experiences which have profited his worldview.

Tarkighir chairs the House of Representatives Committee on “Constituency Outreach,” created early in the life of the Fourth Republic in 2003. Among other responsibilities the committee exercises supervisory oversight on the implementation of Zonal Intervention Projects, (ZIP) by members, and addresses the interests of congressmen. In the ranking of House committees in the order of importance, Tarkighir’s brief is adjudged a “Grade A” outfit. He is reportedly the first parliamentarian from the north central geopolitical zone to chair his present brief. Tarkighir speaks impeccable Hausa which privileges him in our still largely parochial ethno-politics. He is happily married and blessed with children.

Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)

Continue Reading

Trending