Nigeria is a nation with abundant human capital, cultural heritage, languages, and history. However, over the years, the country has been plagued by various socio-economic and political problems. Corruption, embezzlement, and mismanagement of public resources are common issues in Nigeria. Despite these challenges, the Nigerian Presidency, through democratic and authoritarian rule, has proven to be one of the most coveted positions in Africa. Even with the decline in the economy, security, and other critical sectors, there are several politicians who would fight through any means necessary to gain access to Aso Villa, the seat of the number one citizen in the country.
While political affiliates and followers might go down the facile road to call it patriotism, when the blinds of partisanship are taken down, the race to the seat of the Nigerian president is at face value the act of setting oneself for a lifetime of exotic benefits to last a lifetime and two.
The Presidential Retirement Benefits Act
The Nigerian Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, which was enacted in 1999, outlines the retirement benefits that are available to former Presidents and Heads of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Act provides a comprehensive package of benefits for former Heads of State and their families, including financial, medical, and security provisions.
Under the Act, former Heads of State are entitled to a monthly upkeep allowance of N350,000. Additionally, the members of families of deceased former Heads of State are entitled to an annual payment of N1,000,000, payable in quarterly instalments of N250,000.
Former Heads of State are also entitled to a range of other benefits, including armed police protection, a State Security Service Officer as an Aide de Camp for life, and the provision of three vehicles that are bought by the Federal Government and replaced every four years.
Former Heads of State are also entitled to diplomatic passports for life and are entitled to protocol within and outside Nigeria. They and their spouses take the third position after the serving President and the serving Vice-President at all public functions in order of precedence.
In terms of medical services, former Heads of State and their immediate families are entitled to free medical treatment within Nigeria, and treatment abroad where necessary at Federal Government expense. They are also entitled to thirty days of annual vacation within and outside Nigeria, also at Federal Government expense.
Former Heads of State are entitled to a well-furnished and equipped office in any location of their choice in Nigeria, as well as a well-furnished five-bedroom house in any location of their choice in Nigeria.
They are also entitled to send non-political mail within, and outside Nigeria as franked mail marked “POSTAGE PAID” and are provided with one direct telephone line at Federal Government expense.
The Act stipulates that the National Flag shall be flown at half-mast for a period of three days after the death of a Head of State as a sign of national mourning at all buildings, ground, and naval vessels of the Federal Government, and at all Nigerian Embassies outside Nigeria.
The Cost Implication
The cost of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act is enormous. In 2019, it was reported that the Nigerian government had spent over N2.3 billion (approximately $6 million) on the maintenance and upkeep of former Presidents in the past five years. This amount includes the payment of salaries and allowances of domestic staff, security personnel, and medical expenses.
Furthermore, the government spends billions of naira every year to maintain the residences of former Presidents, including the construction of new houses and the renovation of existing ones. In 2019, it was reported that the government spent over N1.3 billion (approximately $3.5 million) to renovate the houses of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, and Ibrahim Babangida.
The Luxurious Lifestyle of Former Nigerian Presidents
Former Nigerian Presidents are known to live a luxurious lifestyle. They are chauffeured around in bulletproof cars and have a retinue of domestic staff, security personnel, and aides. They live in mansions and enjoy access to private jets for their travels.
For example, former President Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly owns a massive farm and several other properties across the country. He also has a presidential library, which is said to have cost billions of naira to construct. The library is home to a museum, a research centre, and a conference hall.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is also said to enjoy a lavish lifestyle, with several luxury homes and cars at his disposal. He is also rumoured to have a private jet and a yacht, which he acquired while in office.
These luxurious lifestyles of former presidents and heads of state have often raised questions about the appropriateness of the benefits they receive. Critics argue that such privileges are wasteful and unjustifiable, given the country’s economic situation and the poverty faced by many Nigerians.
Many Nigerian politicians see the Presidency as a platform for amassing wealth and accumulating power. They use their positions to embezzle public funds and enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s development. The Presidential Retirement Benefits Act only serves to encourage this behaviour by providing a safety net for politicians after their tenure.
Government by the Elites, for the Elites: The Disparity between the Nigerian Common Man and the Ruling Class
The Nigerian political landscape is characterised by a stark divide between the ruling class and the common man. While the ruling class enjoys the luxury of Presidential retirement benefits and a life of affluence, the common man struggles with poverty, poor healthcare, and a lack of basic amenities. Furthermore, there is a growing age gap between the ruling class and the Nigerian youth, with the former being dominated by the old elites.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2020, Nigeria’s poverty rate stood at 40%, with over 82 million Nigerians living below the poverty line. In contrast, the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act provides for a life of luxury for former Presidents and Vice Presidents.
The Nigerian ruling class is known for its opulent lifestyle, with a penchant for expensive cars, mansions, and private jets. The ruling class also has access to quality healthcare and education, which are inaccessible to most Nigerians.
In Nigeria, there is a growing age gap between the ruling class and the Nigerian youth. According to the United Nations Development Programme, the youth population in Nigeria is estimated to be around 68 million, representing about 34% of the total population. However, the political landscape is dominated by the old elites, with the average age of Nigerian Senators at 63 years, while the average age of Members of the House of Representatives is 50 years.
This age gap has significant implications for Nigeria’s future, as the country’s youth population is increasingly disenchanted with the political system. The youth population is also more educated and tech-savvy, which makes them more aware of the political situation and more likely to demand accountability from their leaders.
The Not Too Young to Run Bill
The Not Too Young to Run bill was a landmark legislation that sought to lower the age limit for political office in Nigeria. The bill reduced the age for running for the office of the President from 40 to 35 years, the Governorship from 35 to 30 years, and the House of Representatives from 30 to 25 years. The bill was hailed as a major victory for Nigeria’s youth population and was expected to pave the way for greater youth participation in politics.
Despite the passage of the Not Too Young to Run bill, the reality on the ground suggests that the youth are still being neglected in politics. The political landscape is still dominated by the old elites, with little representation of the youth. In the 2019 general elections, less than 20% of the candidates that contested for political office were below the age of 35.
The Nigerian youth face significant obstacles in their quest for political representation, including limited access to funding, lack of political experience, and a lack of representation in political parties. This has created a situation where the youth are effectively shut out of the political system, with little chance of making a meaningful impact.
The Nigerian Presidency is the most luxurious retirement home in the world. The Presidential Retirement Benefits Act has made the position of President and Vice President of Nigeria one of the most lucrative in the world. The benefits provided by the Act are enormous and costly, with the government spending billions of naira every year to maintain the residences and provide for the needs of former Presidents.
This has created a situation where politicians see the Presidency as a retirement home rather than as an opportunity to serve their country. It is important for Nigeria to review the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act and make necessary changes to ensure that the benefits provided to former Presidents are reasonable and not a drain on the country’s resources. The focus should be on serving the people and developing the country rather than on amassing wealth and power for personal gain.
The Nigerian government should also work towards creating a more transparent and accountable political system that rewards merit and hard work rather than cronyism and corruption. This will help to restore the public’s trust in government and create a more just and equitable society.
Writer: – Oche Anejo-