By Olakunle Olafioye
A widespread condemnation is trailing a bill by Lagos State House of Assembly to amend the Public Office Holders (Payment of Pensions) 2007.
The Lagos State House of Assembly is proposing amendments to the law on the payment of pensions to key political office holders in the state. The bill entitled “a bill for a law to amend the payment of pensions and other fringe benefits to public office holders in Lagos State and for connected purposes,” if passed would ensure that the speakers of the state House of Assembly and their deputies are entitled to the payment of pensions and other fringe benefits at the expiration of the tenure.
A notable amendment in the proposal is the section 6 of the principal law which modifies the meaning of public office holder which hitherto referred to the governor and deputy governor to include the speaker and the deputy speaker.
Other amendments include a clause which states that, “where any public office holder, after the expiration of his tenure of office from the elected office is appointed or elected into another office, the public office holder shall not be entitled to draw the pension provided for under section 1 until he is totally disengaged from holding any public office.”
Allowances and other fringe benefits to be provided for the speaker and his deputy upon the expiration of their tenures include accommodation, transport, furniture, domestic staff, medical and security.
In addition to these, the bill if passed will entitle the speaker to one car at the end of his tenure and one pilot car, while the deputy speaker will be entitled to one car. Both the speaker and his deputy would also be entitled to one policeman each.
A similar proposal in the past had met strident criticisms forcing the proponents to drop the agenda.
Reacting to the latest proposal, Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike described the move as condemnable and called on the House to shelve the proposal.
According to him, “any act that encourages corruption, abuse of power and due process is condemnable by the CLO. This move is not in consonance with democratic principle especially now that Nigerians are suffering. Workers’ salaries are not being paid, people cannot afford to pay their children school fees and the House is making arrangement for lifeline package for people who have been in government for eight years. There have been governors in the state like Lateef Jakande who are not used to this flamboyant lifestyle. We cannot support this. The idea should be dropped,” he said.
Also speaking in the same vein, former Chairman Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, Onyekachi Ubani said the proposal amounts to taking the people for a ride. “These people are taking us for a ride and it is because people are not reacting. We are already complaining over the bogus allowances being giving to ex-governors and huge cost of governance. People will revolt against them if they do not back out. A day is coming that the rich will not sleep. They should be very careful because Nigerian are very hungry,” he said.