The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, Monday, bowed to pressure and declined assent to the controversial Pension Bill for governors, deputy governors and House of Assembly members in the state.
Last week, the Bayelsa House of Assembly passed a bill that would grant life pensions to its Speakers, Deputy Speakers and other members.
Under the bill, which was proposed by the leader of the House, Peter Akpe, former Speakers will go home with N500,000 monthly, while ex-deputy speakers will receive N200,000. Twenty-four other former members are also expected to get N100,000 monthly.
The Assembly also wants life pensions for members similar to those “applicable to former presidents, vice-presidents, governors and deputy governors across the country.”
Since the lawmakers passed the bill through First and Second Reading within hours and was passed into law within four hours, the move has been greeted with outrage in Bayelsa State and across the country. In its intervention, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, pleaded with the governor not to accept the proposed life pension bill.
However, Commissioner for Information, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, who said Dickson has declined assent to the bill, disclosed that the governor held consultations with members of the House of Assembly at his country home, Toru-Orua, at the weekend and explained reasons he declined assent.
Dickson said the provision of the bill is not consistent with Section 124 of the constitution of the country as amended.
He quoted Dickson as having argued that while the lawmakers lacked the powers to expand the category of public servants who should be entitled to pension, he had to withhold assent to the bill because the state which was bedevilled with a lot of challenges in spite of its low internally generated revenue base and unstable earnings from the oil economy was the only state out of Nigeria’s 36 to come up with such a bill.
The governor stressed that he was guided in the decision by the principle that government should not be for a select class of the privileged in the society, and would not discard it over seven years into his administration.
“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 not 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.
“It is my philosophy that government should not be for a select few. In the last seven years, my actions and decisions which have sometimes elicited opposition from the elite who have been feeding fat on the resources of our state, have been marked by this singular disposition of mine.
“Therefore, I am unable to assent to this bill which in my view aims to expand and consolidate the class interest of a privileged few,” he declared.