Kano State House of Assembly did the unthinkable on Tuesday, last week, when it approved, during plenary, life pension for its speaker and deputy speaker. According to the bill, “any person duly elected as speaker or deputy speaker shall, on completion of his term be entitled to a grant of pension for life by the state, provided that such person was not removed from office through impeachment by members of the House of Assembly.
“There shall be paid pension to persons who held office as speaker and deputy speaker equal to the emoluments of a serving speaker and deputy speaker, provided that either the speaker or the deputy does not hold any paid elective or selective appointment.’’ The officers are also entitled to a brand new car every four years, to be paid for by the state government. That is not all; even where the speaker or deputy does not complete their term, provided they were not impeached; or if they die in office before their term expires, the pension would be on a pro-rata basis. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has however vetoed the bill.
This is commendable. That the law makers had the temerity to make such proposition in the first place is incomprehensible. Coming barely a week after Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State declined assent to a similar bill seeking pension for the state’s legislators after their tenure, the Kano State scenario simply portrays that state’s lawmakers as insensitive and callous, especially at a time of severe economic downturn, and particularly in a state that is home to a horde of almajiris, that the government could have spent the pensions to improve their lot.
In making a case for the payment for Bayelsa State legislators, the leader of the state house of assembly, Peter Akpe, said the bill, when assented to, would provide financial security for the beneficiaries and protect them from economic uncertainties in the future. Akpe added that only the indigenes of the state who had served in the respective capacities and in the old Rivers State for a minimum period of two years were entitled to the benefit. The law prescribes a monthly post-service life pension of between N0.1 million and N0.5 million for members of the House. Mercifully, Governor Dickson did the commonsensical: he refused assent to the bill for the obvious reason that it was out of tune with the yearnings of the people.
We thought this should have been the benchmark for other legislators who might be contemplating similar benefits. When, at a two-day retreat on Constitution Review organised by the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Review of 1999 Constitution,n Lagos in 2016, a similar proposal was made to be giving the principal officers of the National Assembly, that is the senate president and his deputy, as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy, pension, the deputy senate president, and chairman of the committee, Ike Ekweremadu, had likened the role and position of the legislators to that of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). He said, inter alia: “This has nothing to do with an individual. It is about the institution… Nobody elected the Chief Justice of Nigeria, but he enjoys pension.” Mr. Ekweremadu, added: “But if we cheapen our own institution, so be it”.
Could anything have been more ludicrous? Anyway, all these just tell us the mindset of some of the people leading us. How could any rational person be comparing the position of CJN with that of National Assembly leaders? The present crop of lawmakers seems to have forgotten that a time there was when legislators in this country were serving on part-time basis. Anyway, it was good that Nigerians did not allow that proposal to materiaise; they shut it down. It is good too that Governor Ganduje has vetoed the obnoxious bill.
Above all, however, Nigerians should stand up to these selfish individuals parading themselves as their representatives, whether at the state or national level. They should be stopped from getting fatter at the expense of the people that they claim to be representing. We agree with the submission of the All Progressives Congress (APC)) in Bayelsa State that: “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.”