Recently, lawmakers in both Bayelsa and Kano States made moves to guarantee life pension and other juicy perks for its members. The false step attracted a barrage of criticisms and public angst toward the legislators for even conceiving such an idea in the first place.
In the case of Bayelsa, the lawmakers passed a bill that will grant life pension for all present and past members of the state legislature, including lawmakers of Bayelsa origin who served in the old Rivers State before Bayelsa was carved out of it.
According to the bill, former Speakers will receive N500, 000 monthly pension, their deputies will get N200, 000 while other members are to get N100, 000 – until they die.
The move in Kano is similar but slightly different. In the Pensions Rights of Speaker and Deputy Speaker Law 2019, the lawmakers, made a provision for life pension for the Speaker and deputy Speaker after they leave office equivalent of what they, serving speakers and deputies, are paid, in addition to local and foreign medical trips and brand new luxury cars every four years, all paid for by the state government. The proviso is that the beneficiaries do not hold any paid elective and appointive positions. Those impeached from office are not also entitled to the privileges.
Apart from civil servants who used to get life pension after putting in a whole career of working in the public sector for upwards of 30 to 35 years, the only other persons entitled to life pension are former presidents, vice-presidents, governors and deputy governors.
In the case of Bayelsa, the bill was reported to have been rushed through without the public getting a whiff of what law was being made in their name but the furore that attended its passage promptly got the attention of Governor Seriake Dickson who declined assent to the bill on the ground that it did not serve the interest of the majority of Bayelsa people. For the Kano bill, the governor has not assented or declined the bill.
However, as a newspaper, we stand with Governor Dickson and all those who have risen up to condemn the move by the few lawmakers to feather their already well-padded nest at the expense of long-suffering masses who are having a torrid time eking out a living in the present harsh economy.
We recall that this is not the first time lawmakers have taken advantage of their law-making powers to pass legislations that serve their narrow interest to the exclusion of the majority. In the 2019 appropriation bill sent to them by the president, the federal lawmakers expanded the budget proposal by N90 billion to accommodate a hefty N24billion severance package for themselves.
Last year, federal legislators passed a law granting themselves immunity from prosecution. The law, Legislative Houses (Power and Privileges), Act 2018, grants members of the legislative houses in the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly immunity from litigation for actions taken in plenary or committee proceedings.
This confers on them the privileges of immunity from prosecution previously exclusively enjoyed by the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors.
We urge Governor Ganduje to follow the example of Governor Dickson and jettison this bill in its entirety. The lawmakers must be made to learn to subordinate their interests to the interests of the masses they supposedly represent.
The bills are not only misplaced priority but self-serving. They do not serve any public good. The purpose of government is always to deploy public resources to serve the greatest good of the greatest number of people.
We dare say that a state like Kano, with about three million out-of-school children and most of the indigenes living below the poverty level, can ill afford to grant such luxuries to lawmakers who had already been well paid for the services they rendered during their tenures.
It is instructive to note that most of the state governments have been crying out that the federal allocations they receive every month had been dwindling with the fall of oil in the international market, making it difficult for them to even pay workers’ salaries, not to talk of pensions and gratuities. Almost two-thirds of them are indebted to workers.
Now the same governors who claimed to be struggling to pay N18, 000 minimum wage are now faced with the task of paying the newly approved minimum wage of N30, 000, putting more strain on government funds available for capital projects that have the capacity to improve the lives of the masses.
It is our considered opinion that these bills seeking life pensions for lawmakers will cause a further drain on state resources and the abilities of the governor’s to affect the lives of the people positively. Consequently, they must not be assented to. That will send a message to discourage other lawmakers from thinking in that direction.
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