Contempt: SERAP Sues AGF Malami for Failing To Recover Double Pay From Past Governors

The Federal Government and Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, have been sued for contempt by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) for “failing to recover over N40 billion double pay and life pensions from former governors who are serving as lawmakers and ministers.”

The Federal Government was ordered in November 2019 by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Lagos to “recover life pensions collected by former governors serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly.”

Additionally, Mr. Malami was given the mandate by Justice Oguntoyinbo to “challenge the legality of state life pension laws allowing former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.”

However, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to implement the judgment. Justice Oguntoyinbo who last month retired from the bench expressed “regret” during a valedictory court session held in her honour that the judgment has not been implemented.

She stated: “I remember with pride my landmark judgment in SERAP vs. The Attorney-General. Regrettably, that order is yet to be obeyed. I find it very disappointing that Court orders are often not obeyed. If there’s anything I wish to change, it is the impunity towards judicial decisions and the disrespect for the bench.”

SERAP last Friday moved to enforce the judgment by filing Form 48 contempt suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos. SERAP said: “A certified true copy of the judgment of 26 November, 2019 by Justice Oguntoyinbo has long been served on Mr Malami.”

Form 48 which is the notice of consequence of disobedience of court orders reads in part: “Unless you obey the orders of the court contained on the reverse side of this process you shall be deemed to have disobeyed the orders of the court and shall be liable to committed to prison for contempt.”

In a statement dated 7 May 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “It’s unacceptable to take the court, which is the guardian of justice in this country, for a ride. A democratic state based on the rule of law cannot exist or function, if the government routinely ignores and/or fails to abide by court orders.”

The statement, read in part: “Despite the service of the certified true copy of the judgment on the Attorney General of the Federation, the Buhari administration has failed and/or refused to obey it.

“While many Nigerian workers and pensioners have not been paid by state governors for several months and struggle to make ends meet, former governors continue to collect double emoluments and enjoy opulent lifestyles.”