Stupendously rich Ibrahim Babangida has lost his pension, no thanks to the Senate, which has approved the retirement benefits for all former Nigerian presidents, except those who came to power by ousting an incumbent with a gun. In a symbolic move, the senators effectively excluded former military heads of state, Generals Yakubu Gowon Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar from the retirement largesse.
According to the bill tagged “Remuneration for former presidents, heads of state, heads of federal legislative houses and Chief Justices of the Federation and Ancillary Matters Bill,” the former office holders covered in the bill will enjoy retirement benefits after leaving office.
Senate President, Mr David Mark, said during the debate that the decision would discourage members of the military from moving against democratic governments.
He said: “This is to discourage other ways of getting into power through unconstitutional means; the only way recognised by the constitution is through the ballot box and not through the barrel of the gun,” he said.
Leading debate on the bill, committee chairman, Zainab Kure, noted that the essence of the new legislation was to ensure that only democratically-elected leaders were adequately catered for.
“The thrust of the bill is essentially to amend Decree 32 of 1999 and ensure that only democratically-elected former presidents are entitled in the schedule to the bill.”
The bill indicates that former presidents, vice-presidents, Senate presidents, deputy Senate presidents, speakers and deputy speakers of the House of Representatives and Chief Justices of the Federation shall benefit from the retirement benefits.
“The members of families of deceased former presidents and vice-presidents shall be entitled to annual payments as shall be recommended by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and approved by the National Assembly,” the bill stated.
Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, said that the bill automatically shut out all former military heads of state who usurped political power.
He said: “Another important feature of this bill is that persons who were removed from any of the offices referred to in this Act through the process of impeachment or were compelled to relinquish such offices for breach of any of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution are also not the contemplation of this bill.”
Senator Folarin said the bill was aimed at promoting democracy, making military coup unattractive, encouraging dedicated leadership and providing stability in the polity to such extent as to discourage impeachments.