No To Life Pension For Lawmakers

358

Even as the electorate and other highly perceptible segments of the Nigerian society continue to question the propriety of paying pension to certain categories of political office holders in the country, the 24-member Bayelsa State House of Assembly, had, penultimate Wednesday, in apparent arrogant and flagrant display of supine callousness to the sufferings, yearnings and aspirations of its beleaguered people, hurriedly passed a bill proposing pension for its current and past members.
The Bill proposed a monthly pension of N100,000 for members while the Speaker and Deputy Speaker will be entitled to N500,000 and N200,000 respectively.
Expectedly, the Bill has been generating serious and persistent public outcry – and even divergent opinions, many of which range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some civil society groups have even been quoted as suggesting that the lawmakers be stripped naked and properly flogged in full pubic glare.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, in his wisdom, or perhaps, ostensibly heeding to public outcry, declined assent to the bill which, as it were, sought life pension for the state lawmakers.
Dickson’s decision to withhold assent to the controversial bill, according to a statement by the State Information Commissioner, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, has since been officially conveyed to the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.
Dickson, Iworiso-Markson said, had in a consultative meeting with the State lawmakers in his Toru-Orua country home stated point blank that the provisions of the bill were inconsistent with the letters and spirit of Section 124 of the Nigerian Constitution.
Insisting that the State Assembly lacked the powers to expand the categories of public servants who should be entitled to pensions, Dickson said the provisions of the bill granting pension to the current and serving State lawmakers including those that served in the old Rivers State House of Assembly, is inconsistent with Section 124 of the Nigerian Constitution.
“While I agree that the Assembly can adjust the quantum of pension payable to persons entitled to pension, I am not convinced that the House has powers to add to the categories of pensionable public officers.
“Evidently, there is no record of any other state in this country that has expanded the categories of pensionable public officers to include lawmakers.
“I do agree that Bayelsa which is coping with all the myriads of issues and challenges, with our low Internally Generated Revenue base and the unpredictable oil economy, should be the first to initiate this”, Dickson said.
As if the furore generated by the Bayelsa lawmakers’ self-seeking move was not enough to dissuade it, the Ekiti State House of Assembly, on its part, true to the prediction of many, had reportedly started considering moves towards sending a similar bill to Governor Kayode Fayemi. The Majority Leader of the Assembly, Gboyega Aribisogan, who had confirmed the move to newsmen said the matter which had already reached parliamentary stage had been discussed by the lawmakers.
Not a few observers believe that the Bayelsa lawmakers’ move would trigger off more of such moves by their counterparts across the federation, the Ekiti State example notwithstanding. This must stop now.
Pensions, as they were, are the exclusive rights of civil servants who use significant number of their productive years to serve their states meritoriously. It is not for legislators or any other political office holders who had already leveraged on their elective positions to prepare better future for themselves and their families.
It needs not be stressed here that our lawmakers, as with other politicians, within their periods in office acquired exotic cars, mansions in different parts of the country and overseas, assets in blue-chip companies, and starched away enough monies in local and foreign currencies. Thus, it will be a disservice and in fact, criminal for such persons to continue to impoverish, under-develop, and fleece the state of its meagre resources in the name of pensions.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the nation is passing through extremely difficult times that require more of the understanding and sacrifice of our elected public men and women than this flagrant and nauseating show of greed and self-centredness.
While The Tide commends Governor Dickson for promptly declining assent to the obnoxious bill, we say a categorical No to pensions for lawmakers who, rather than make meaningful contributions to the development of their constituents, have exhibited exemplary penchant for selfishness and irresponsibility.