Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court to declare the life pension edict/law 2019, passed by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) null, void, illegal and unconstitutional.
In a statement signed by the group’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP is also seeking to restrain and stop AMAC, its chairman; deputy chairman; speaker; legislature and/or their agents from paying life pensions to former officials, and ultimately, to themselves under the edict/law.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The edict is entirely inconsistent with the with the provisions of Item 44, Second Schedule, Part 1 Nigerian Constitution, and to that extent, the law is null, void, illegal and unconstitutional.
“It is only the National Assembly that has power to make laws on pension under the Nigerian Constitution. AMAC and its officials went beyond the scope of their constitutional powers to make laws on payment of annual pensions for the council’s former chairmen, former vice-chairmen and former speakers.
“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 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.
“SERAP is asking the court for a declaration that the AMAC life pension edict was passed contrary to AMAC and its officials’ powers in Fourth Schedule, Part III of the Nigerian Constitution. The AMAC edict is inconsistent with the provisions of Item 44, Second Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution, and it is therefore null and void to the extent of its inconsistency.
“The exclusive legislative list contains items/subject matters on which only the National Assembly can legislate. Specifically, Item 44, Second Schedule, Part 1 of the Nigerian Constitution makes clear that only the National Assembly can make law for payment of pension to the classes of public officers whose funds are payable out of the public funds of the Federation.
“The AMAC, being a local government, is established by Section 3 and 7 of the Nigerian Constitution and its functions are laid out in section 7 and Sections 1 and 2, Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. There is nothing in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution that allows the AMAC and its officials to make laws on pension.
“The AMAC and its officials ought to exercise their public functions 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 and its officials are constitutionally and statutorily obliged to act in the public interest.
“People have the right to honest and faithful performance by public officials, who are under a fiduciary duty to the public. And no public official 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.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.