While Nigeria prepares for a revenue shortage in 2021, with plans to borrow about a quarter of the year’s budget expenditure, the country will spend around N7.8 billion on entitlements, severance allowances and other perquisites to the nation’s former leaders, details of the assented 2021 budget have shown.
The appropriation is in accordance with the remuneration for the former presidents‘ act, which offers a slew of luxuries which have been faulted by some, especially because four in every ten Nigerians earn less than N377 per day, and the unemployment rate reached a record high last year as the country keeps struggling to diversify its economy to shore up its revenue base.
As upkeep allowance, the act mandates the monthly payment of N350,000 to former presidents and N250,000 to former vice-presidents and chiefs of general staff, and this is subject to a review whenever there is an increase in the salary of the serving president.
The deceased former heads are: Tafawa Balewa (only prime minister), Nnamdi Azikiwe (first ceremonial president), Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (first military head of state), Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Shagari, Sani Abacha and Umaru Yar’Adua.
The nation has also had 14 vice presidents and deputy heads of state, again all men, including two different deputies under the Ibrahim Babangida military junta – Ebitu Ukiwe, 70, and Augustus Aikhomu, who died in 2011 aged 71.
Seven of them are alive, including Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, who would later become presidents themselves. Others are Ebitu Ukiwe; Mr Abacha’s deputy, Oladipo Diya; Atiku Abubakar, Namadi Sambo, and incumbent Yemi Osinbajo.
The nation’s deceased former vice-presidents include Mr Ironsi’s deputy, Babafemi Ogundipe; Mr Gowon’s de facto deputy who died in 1991, Joseph Wey; Shehu Yar’Adua, who was Mr Obasanjo’s deputy in the latter’s military stint; Nigeria’s first democratically elected vice-president, Alex Ekwueme; Tunde Idiagbon, Mr Buhari’s deputy as head of state; Augustus Aikhomu; Mike Akhigbe, Nigeria’s last military deputy head of state.
Living presidents and their deputies are, at the expense of the federal government, entitled to at least six security details and personal aides; well-furnished office and a five-bedroom apartment in any location of their choice; vehicles replaceable every four years; diplomatic passport for life; free medical treatment, which may be abroad where necessary, for themselves and their immediate families; thirty days all-expense-paid annual vacation within and outside Nigeria.
The families of all deceased former presidents are, meanwhile, entitled to an annual allowance of N1 million payable as N250,000 per quarter, while the families of deceased former deputies get N750,000 per annum payable in the sum of N187,500 per quarter.
“The allowances shall be applied for the up-keep of the spouse and education of the children of deceased former heads of state and deceased former vice-presidents up to the university level,” the act reads.
PRESS INFORMANT review of the approved budgets since 2017 showed that the country has spent about N70 billion on the severance benefits for its former leaders.
In 2020, it cost Nigeria N11.7 billion. This amount is inclusive of the N3.9 billion budgeted as additional retirement benefits for chief of defense staff, service chiefs, generals, colonels and army warrant officers.
Nigeria has hardly ever mulled the possibility of abolishing or significantly reducing the pension packages for its former leaders and it continues to give little recourse to economic reality which informs why it will sell some government-owned properties and borrow to finance the 2021 budget, a quarter of which will go into debt payments.
Critics have often argued that cutting the cost of governance is the brave step the country has refused to take to boost its earnings.
But the larger number of other state governments that have maintained the status quo is a mirror reflection of what obtains in the larger Nigerian society.