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One controversial life pension bill

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One controversial life pension bill

It was meant to serve the interest of lawmakers in Bayelsa State. But the pension bill for pension of the lawmakers met stiff resistance that forced the state governor, Seriake Dickson, not to assent to it PAULINE ONYIBE in Yenagoa, provides details of the aborted bill and the implications to both sponsors and state

 

 

It is a well known fact that humans beings are insatiable. That played out in Bayelsa State when the state House of Assembly embarked on a journey that would have torn the state to shreds but for the timely intervention of the Governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson.

Although an exclusive bill sponsored by the majority leader of the House, Peter Akpe from Sagbama constituency, the constituency of the governor, political pundits said the governor must have been aware of the bill before it got to the house.

In any way, he was able to shelve what would have kept the state still boiling if the life pension bill for Assembly members was passed by not assenting to the bill.

Of course, the bill received immediate deliberation on the floor of the house without any hitch because it was theirs.

Bills like child labour bill and other pertinent bills that would move Bayelsa State forward are yet to receive attention on the floor of the House but the life pension bill received immediate and speedy passage.

However, it is on record that a state legislator in Nigeria supposed to receive an annual basic salary of N1.34 million, accommodation, N802, 335, vehicle maintenance, N267, 445, and recess allowance, N133,772 totaling about N1,203,553.34

A lawmaker also is supposed to receive , once in four years, a vehicle loan of N5.3 million, furniture allowance of N2 million and N2.6 million as severance gratuity totaling N81,000, 000.

Other yearly emoluments are N334,306 for constituency allowance; N334,306 for domestic staff; N133,772 for utilities; and N66,861 as newspapers allowance.

In addition, a state lawmaker is entitled to N25, 000 as duty tour allowance (DTA) per night and $600 Estacode while on foreign trips per night.

Going by the following, a lawmaker that has spent about eight years in the Assembly as most of them do must have made about N82,678,450 approximately.

Even though some argued that the demand was not out of place as a peep into a document titled, Pension Bill for Governors, Deputy Governors and members of the State House of Assembly, revealed details of its provision.

Based on the provisions, a speaker shall be entitled to monthly pension of N500,000; Deputy Speaker, N300,000; House Leader and the Whip, N250,000; Deputy Leader N200,000 and other members N100,000.

The life pension bill specifically provided that former lawmakers, including persons of Bayelsa origin, who served in the old

Rivers State House of Assembly, would enjoy life pensions.

It is on record also that before the bill, there was Bayelsa State pensions for Governor and Deputy Governor Law 2003, which made provisions for governors and deputy governors’ pensions only.

But they repealed the old law, provided new legislation to include their pensions and enhance those of the governors and deputies.

Section 10 of the new law said: “This law repeals the Bayelsa State Pensions for Governor and Deputy Governor Law.”

In the new law a governor’s monthly allowance is valued at 8 per cent of his Annual Basic Salary (ABS); wardrobe allowance, 50 per cent of his ABS entertainment, 40 per cent of his ABS, transport allowance, 50 per cent of ABS and utilities, 80 per cent of ABS.

A deputy governor’s allowances are monthly basic, 8 per cent, wardrobe, 25 per cent of ABS; entertainment, 20 per cent; transport allowance, 30 per cent and utilities 40 per cent.

But where the governor and his deputy successfully served second term of eight years, they shall be entitled to 150 per cent of their ABS.
A governor is also entitled to seven bedroom duplex and a three-room boys quarters in any location of his choice in the state.

A deputy governor is entitled to one residential five bedroom duplex and a two-room boys quarters in any location of his choice in the state.

While a governor is entitled to two cars and one backup car to be replaced every five years, a deputy governor shall have one car and one backup car to be replaced every five years.

Also, the state shall maintain three drivers, a cook, a steward and a gardner, who shall be pensionable while the deputy shall have two drivers, a cook and a gardner.

The governor is entitled to 60 per cent of ABS for vacation while the deputy has 40 per cent.

Looking at all these benefits, the law makers, who believed that the governors were also elected/ selected like them with a time frame of four years went on an agitation for their own life pension but alas Bayelsans vehemently objected, causing the governor to refuse assent to the bill.

Of course, the All Progressives Congress (APC) described the approval of bill as ungodly and self-serving.

APC, through a statement by publicity secretary, Doifie Buokoribo, accused the state lawmakers of making attempt to enhance their own lives at the expense of the vast majority of Bayelsa people living in pain and penury.

Buokoribo described the bill as unspeakable crime against humanity and the impoverished people of the state.

He said: “The party has also observed how the strange idea, which was proposed as a bill and passed by the House on Wednesday, has set the public pulse racing.

“APC Bayelsa completely rejects this life pension bill for members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.

“Regarding this latest move by the House of Assembly, we again say that the idea is avaricious, wicked, and insensitive. By proposing such a law, the lawmakers have merely portrayed themselves as a people who feel no concern for the feelings of their suffering constituents.

Of course the bill specifically provided that former lawmakers including persons of Bayelsa origin, who served in the old Rivers State, would enjoy life pensions for their services in the state as applicable to former presidents, vice-presidents, governors and deputy governors across the country.

To qualify for the speakership pension of N500, 000 monthly, the official must have served for two years and above.

The controversial bill has drawn a lot of criticism from the natives and non-natives across the state, with many calling it outrageous and corruption of the highest order, while others recommend compulsory Psychological Assessment for all the members of the assembly.

With the heavy criticisms that trailed the bill, a former House of Assembly member under late Governor Dipreye Alamiesieghia, said: “The problem of life pension bill is the failure of the society because the sixth and the seventh Assembly moved a motion that there should be independence of the legislature but Nigeria threw away the baby and the bath water.

“When the governors are hand picking the state assembly members, where were Bayelsans? When the governors were hand picking the National Assembly where were Nigerians?

“They did not rise up to the challenge. Now that the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is looking for a way out to make legislators dependent, that is the essence of this pension bill.

“Nigerians don’t do the needful for the legislators to be upright. Now, if you want a legislator to be up right and you know this kind of political time that we find ourselves.

“Look at Adi who is an opposition member, he was not paid his stipends for months and how do you want Adi to function?

“The only way Adi can function is when he knows that at the end of the day, he will fall back to something. If this government is not favourable to him, the next government will pay him pension. Then you will now see that he will be able to function very well.
“You are saying that Assembly members are rubber stamp, why won’t they be rubber stamp when they will go around begging.

“That money that we will be receiving at the end of every month, that is pension for an assembly man.

“What have the governors done that they deserve pension? If a governor can serve four years and he is pensioned like Sylva served one tenure and he is entitled to governor’s benefits till he dies, what about that one?

“So many things are wrong. So, the Assembly should not be attacked. It is the failure of the society that is causing this problem.”

Also another serving member, Salo Adikumo, said: “Whatever thing we are doing is for the good of the people. Let me tell you something. We are professional politicians and you guys are professional media men and we have professional civil servants, who go home on pension because they have to take care of themselves after retirement. You know how a pensioner values his pension money.

 

“Take me for instance. I have been a teacher for so many years before I retired voluntarily and I have been collecting my small pension and if I have not received that alert at the end of the month, you will see me lamenting and crying. So, it keeps us going.

“That is why we decided this (pension) for our people. Imagine the small stipend we are proposing to be going home with, a hundred thousand naira, compared to what we are receiving now. “You had my comment on the floor of the house when I said that some Permanent Secretaries are going home with almost their full salary as pension and over twelve to twenty permanent secretaries retire from the civil service every year and we are just twenty four. “The permanent secretaries, when they go home, they go home with about seven hundred to eight hundred thousand naira and we are only going home with only a hundred thousand naira. “You can see the reason behind this plan. We don’t want to over-bloat the system because we are aware of the government’s involvement in executing projects.”

 

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