Former Presidents Goodluck Jonathan, Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, and others have not been paid their salaries and allowances by the Federal Government since January this year, it was revealed yesterday.
Lawmakers on the Senate Committee of Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, were shocked when they learnt during a visit to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). President Muhammadu Buhari was yet to approve payment.
According to findings, payment schedule had severally been sent for the President’s approval to assess funds in the service wide vote for the purpose, but all attempts in that direction were to no avail.
Explaining the development, Lawal said: “There is a department responsible for payment of former Presidents. Presently, funds are not available in service wide votes to do that. We are aware there was a protest in Bayelsa State that the former President was not paid, but we’ve explained that he’s not the only one affected.
“Others affected are Inter-religious Council, Traditional Rulers Council and so on. For some reason, we have been writing and writing, but there had been no response. And there is presently no money to pay them.
“The budget for this year’s Democracy Day was N33million, and we had to do it on credit, we are yet to pay. There are lots of retreat which ought to be organised, but there’s no money to do any. The last time we got any release was in August.”
However, the Senators who were not swayed by the explanation, kicked against the non-payment of the former presidents, insisting the office of the SGF and the committee must resolve the crisis.
The lawmakers who blamed the SGF over the development, also stressed the need to draw the attention of the Budget Office and Ministry of Finance to the development for quick resolution.
One of the lawmakers, who is the Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, described the non-payment of former presidents as abnormal.
“What we have seen here is an abnormality. Before referring any matter to the National Assembly, it is a function of the executive to appropriate funds. Therefore, the SGF should understand that there is something wrong in this office that must be addressed.
“There is no way you can run the expenses of this office without cash backing. We definitely have to draw the attention of the Budget Office and
Attempting to persuade the lawmakers, the SGF said: “When I got into this office, there was a lot of money in this account, but there was no Treasury Single Account (TSA).
“Before the government left office, they raised salaries. We told former Presidents Jonathan and Obasanjo that they cannot earn twice what the others were earning. So, we told them we wanted to review it, and we did. So, they now earn what the others earn as well,” he said.
“When I came into office, there was N1.5 billion in the account. We had payment of all liabilities which came to N700 million. Then we wrote to the President to return what was left to the TSA. That was how we came back to a zero balance.
“It is painful to me because as a person I know all of them (Ex-presidents) personally. Now, why have we not been able to get the money? We requested for a budget of N700 million complaining, but the President has his way of doing things.
“Look around, you’ll see government vehicles breaking down every now and then. Really, I know the challenges the Budget Office is facing, but the truth is the funds are not just there. In any government, there are certain agencies that must be served first before others. So we have agreed on that. However, we will lean harder on the Finance Ministry to see that the situation is turned around.
“As SGF, I’m getting embarrassed by chasing money coming from demands. All MDAS come to me for things to be done, and it is not quite easy, but we try our best.
“Last year, these political appointees had nothing. As for assistance, we really need assistance, if not, but to retain all what we have budgeted for,” he added.