The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Mr Abdullahi Candido, to withdraw the bill seeking payment of life pensions to former chairmen, vice-chairmen, speakers and other officials of AMAC.
According to a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the human rights group issued a 14-day ultimatum for the withdrawal of the bill.
In an open letter dated October 11 and addressed to Candido, it described the payment of such money as unconstitutional and illegal.
It said, “If the bill/edict is not withdrawn within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, we will take all appropriate legal action to challenge the illegality and to compel you to comply with our request.
SERAP disclosed that under the bill, AMAC’s past council chairmen would receive an annual pension of N500,000 while former vice chairmen are to receive N300,000 each and former speakers will be paid N200,000 each.
It added that the payment of life pensions would cost the council several millions of naira of taxpayers’ money annually.
“The payment of life pensions to the council’s chairmen, vice-chairmen and speakers would cause massive financial crisis and cripple the council’s ability to discharge its mandates of providing public goods and services to the people of Abuja.
“It would also put in jeopardy citizens’ access to those services,” the group decried.
SERAP believes payment of life pensions to AMAC’s officials undermines the concept of representative government.
It insisted that such action was a flagrant violation of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act.
The group said it also amounts to an abuse of official power, position, and resources for personal gains, and reverses the notion of government as the public’s servant and not its master.
The letter read: The payment of life pensions to AMAC’s former officials is a copycat of the unconstitutional and illegal life pension laws that have been passed by several of the 36 state governments in Nigeria.
Your council is setting a bad precedent as the first local council in Nigeria to introduce life pensions for its officials.
This would send a dangerous message to other councils and risks opening the floodgates of life pension bills/edicts in several of the 774 local governments across the country.
Rather than spending millions of taxpayers’ money on life pensions, your leadership should prioritise addressing the poor state of basic amenities and deficits in educational institutions, primary healthcare facilities, potable water, sanitation and the basic infrastructural needs of the residents within the council’s area.
The leadership of AMAC ought to be exercised for the purposes of providing public goods and services to the people of Abuja and not to grant personal benefits for past officials.
The AMAC is constitutionally and statutorily obliged to act in the public interest.
Implementing the edict would defeat the very purpose for which your council is established, that is, to provide public goods and services.
Granting life pensions to council’s chairmen, vice-chairmen and speakers would seriously undermine the accountability of the council and citizens’ trust in its leadership.
People have the right to honest and faithful performance by public officials, who are under a fiduciary duty to the public.
And no public officer should put himself/herself in a position in which his/her personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.
That is exactly the case with the life pensions.
The public trust to AMAC leaders and officials is not without its corresponding burden: accountability to the public is the obligation of all who hold public offices, including the position of chairman of AMAC.
This notion of accountability requires you to take immediate steps to withdraw the life pensions bill/edict.
You reportedly stated that the payment of life pensions was meant to ‘honour past heroes of the council who sacrificed their talents and energy in building the council.
This is to celebrate Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary as well as celebrate the 35th anniversary since AMAC’s creation.
It would be a disservice if the past leaders and ambassadors of the council are not honoured.