By Maijamaá Adamu
It is a common knowledge and practice in the Nigerian public service that on the attainment of the position of Permanent Secretary a public servant is upon retirement entitled to a monthly pension that is 100 percent equivalent to his salary before retirement.
Kaduna State Executive Council in its wisdom however took a critical review of this and arrived at the conclusion that Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Service are political appointments that by law are not pensionable, hence they are due for pension of their last rank prior to their appointments as Perm Secs or Heads of Service.
A circular to that effect reads:
“2. The Kaduna State Government now recognizes those who hold such offices as political appointee and are not subjected to compulsory retirement at the age of 60 years or completion of 35 years in service.
3. As a result of the foregoing, the Kaduna State Executive Council has vide its conclusion of Monday 3rd February, 2020 approved that all past Heads of Service/Permanent Secretaries/Directors-General pension shall be calculated at their last grade prior to the political appointment as Heads of Service/Permanent Secretaries/Directors-General with effect from 1st March, 2020, please.”
This decision was implemented, leaving the affected retirees with drastically reduced pension pay. Seventy of them went to court to seek redress both for themselves and for all others affected by the action of the government.
Learned counsels of both the claimants and defendants had their moments at the court at the end of which the judge ruled among other things that:
…I have the view that the Defendants did not act under any Law or statute. The Defendant simply acted under the directive or circular emanating from the Permanent Secretary (Establishment) which I am afraid does not and cannot have the force of law but is rather in breach of the laws mentioned above. As stated in Exhibit D, the Defendants also acted contrary to the circular issued earlier by which the total annual emolument as pension for life was adopted for the categories of officers appointed from the Civil Service to the post of Heads of Service and Permanent Secretaries.
It is my considered view therefore, the Defendants and by extension the Executive Council, had exceeded their powers in reviewing or in altering the Claimants’ pension.
The purported review or the alteration of the Claimants’ pension runs riot and violent to the provisions of Pensions Act; it is not only draconic but the action was in bad faith. Therefore, the Defendants’ action is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and void. And I so hold.
…It is hereby further declared that pursuant to (1) above, the Defendants lack the vires to legislate or act retrospectively in the manner that derogates the Claimants’ right to pension.
…It is hereby also declared that the reduction and/or review of the Claimants pension by the Defendants is unconstitutional, null and void.
…The Defendants are hereby ordered forthwith to pay within thirty (30) days to the Claimants the balance or difference of their monthly pension from the unlawful deduction made from the Claimants’ monthly salary that was effected from March 2020.
…The Defendants are hereby restrained whether by themselves, their agents, parastatals, servants, privies and/or assigns whosoever and howsoever from acting in any manner prejudicial to the Claimants’ constitutional right to pension as retired public servants in the public service of Kaduna State.
A cost of N100,000 is hereby awarded against the Defendants.
SINMISOLA O. ADENIYI