Lawmakers And Pension Bills

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Following the widespread commendation that greeted the declining of assent by  Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, to the bill seeking pension for current and former lawmakers of the state, some analysts have called for caution. They said it was not yet time to roll out drums and dance as a similar bill could be proposed by lawmakers of another state sooner or later. According to them, Nigerians, particularly the political class, have the penchant for copying themselves and that for Bayelsa lawmakers to have muted that selfish idea, though they did not succeed, other state lawmakers might want to give it a try.
And, true to type, barely one week after the Bayelsa drama, another state house of assembly, Kano, has approved life pension for its speaker and deputy speaker.  Titled “Pension rights of speaker and deputy speaker bill”, if passed into law will also provide for foreign medical trips and new vehicles every four years for the duo. However, unlike that of Bayelsa which did not specify what qualifies a lawmaker to enjoy the package apart from being a member of the house, the Kano pensions can only be enjoyed if either the speaker or the deputy does not hold any elective or selective appointment.
The questions people have not stopped asking are; where did this idea of creating pension for state legislators come from and why? When did law making stop being a selfless service to a business where people will go and retire?
It  is really mind boggling how things keep going from bad to worse every day in this country. Our politicians and those in authority have become so selfish that they care nothing about the sufferings of millions of their fellow citizens.
All they are interested in is how to enrich themselves and members of their families. How can a handful of people elected to make laws that will benefit the generality of the people turn around and make laws that will benefit themselves without considering the implications of such laws on the people who sent them there?
Most states in the country are faced with barrage of problems: insecurity, lack of infrastructures, backlog of pension and gratuities for retired workers, unemployment, workers’ salary arrears, implementation of the N30, 000, 00 new minimum wage, poor health facilities and many more.  These are challenges the law makers are expected to provide solutions to.  But they do not. They are rather interested in draining the lean purses of their states through all manner of selfish bills and resolutions in addition to their humongous salaries and other numerous allowances.
Not too long ago, the Not Too Young To Run law came into being. By virtue of that, an 18-year old citizen can vie and be elected into any office, including legislature. Should such person be made a speaker or deputy in Kano State, it means that at the expiration of his four years tenure, he will be entitled to life pension if he does not hold any other elective or selective appointment. Or had the pension bill of Bayelsa State seen the light of day, such a young person, haven been a member of the house even for one year, would have been pensionable for life. Can you imagine that!
But before further criticizing the lawmakers, let’s think of the possible reason for their action.  May be they have reasoned that members of the judicial arm of government are enjoying pension. The executive arm is also benefiting from it with some governors taking it to a higher level. They, the legislators, are the ones making laws for life pension for former presidents, former governors and all that, why shouldn’t they make similar laws for themselves?
In fact, when some former governors were signing into law pension bills passed by their state houses of assembly which granted millions of naira annual pay to them and their former deputies for life, in addition to mansions in places of their choice, medical allowance, fleet of cars fueled and maintained by the states, furniture renewable every four years among others, it should have been envisaged that time shall come when the lawmakers will also ask for their own pound of flesh. Meanwhile, many of these former governors are still in government either as senators, ministers or other positions. The former presidents, on the other hand, receive what a sitting president earns.
For how long will this fleecing of the common treasury in the guise of retirement benefits continue? How do we expect our states and the nation to develop with such selfish, irresponsible practice? The fact is that Nigeria’s current economy can no longer sustain such obscene generous packages for all the “formers” and the sooner the laws instituting them are repealed, the better. As was the case with Bayelsa, citizens, groups and organizations should rise up in condemnation of the lawmakers’ pension bill in Kano State or any other state where such bill shall rear its ugly head. It is our responsibility to save our dear nation from these greedy, self-centered politicians.

 

Calista Ezeaku