Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Governor Henry Seriake Dickson on Monday bowed to pressure and declined assent to the controversial Pension Bill for Governors, Deputy Governors and members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.
There have been outrage in Bayelsa State and beyond since the lawmakers set a new record in lawmaking by passing the bill which at its introduction passed first, second readings within hours and was passed within four hours.
The bill had stipulated a monthly life pension of N500, 000 for the Speaker, N200, 000 for the Deputy Speaker and N100, 000 for other members
However, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Daniel Iworiso- Markson who said Dickson had declined assent to the bill, disclosed that the governor held consultations with members of the House of Assembly at his country home at Toru- Orua over the weekend and explained reasons why he had declined his assent to the bill.
According to him, Dickson said the provision of the bill was not consistent with Section 124 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 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 a 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 states 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.
“I am not convinced about the legality of this bill which seeks to expand the categories of persons entitled to a pension. 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 seeks to expand and consolidate the class interest of a privileged few.”