Bayelsa State made headlines lately when the State House of Assembly hastily passed a bill granting life pensions worth hundreds of thousands to its members and former members. Good enough, Governor Seriake Dickson refused to sign the bill into law citing inconsistencies with the constitution, illegality, no precedence by any state of the federation and that the Bayelsa has more pressing issues.
While still trying to catch our breaths, a few days ago, Kano State House Assembly passed into law the Pensions Rights of Speaker and Deputy Law, 2019. This bill makes provisions for life pensions to be paid, new cars bought every four years and foreign medical trip for any person that held the prime positions of the Assembly. There are also reports that Ekiti State Assembly too has prepped a similar bill for the signature of Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Well, it is right that workers get their pay after years of meritorious service, and should be entitled to pensions for the rest of their lives. However, the offensive packages planned for these public officers deserve the attended public outcry.
The first thing to consider is that political office is not the regular 35-year civil service job. Political office holders like governors and legislators are contracted to do their assignments through elections, and so, should not be entitled to pensions like regular civil servants. It is like making provision for special pensions for sportsmen or artistes after earning millions in their active days or from endorsements for certain brands and image rights.
Even if one argues in their favour, the premise of such argument remains faulty since their brief stay in political office benefits them much more than what they would have earned in 35 years as civil servants. As accessories in the furniture of governance, they enjoy various allowances from the ridiculous to the bizarre, while civil servants are owed for months. This is what makes these pensions immoral and unacceptable.
Coupled with the fact that these former executives and legislators leave government mansions to become senators, ministers, ambassadors or other top positions, implying that they are still being doubly fed by taxpayers that have been deprived the basic things of life. They receive salaries for their present offices and on the other hand make pensions from their previous seats. Painting another picture, imagine a senior civil servant getting a political appointment and then becomes an adviser of a governor some time later and this fellow is entitled to steady pensions from his former and latter offices. While they luxuriate in this, the ordinary pensioners are left stranded on verification queues.
These pensions must be halted urgently because these are insidious gestures to Speakers of other State Houses of Assembly and their deputies. If not stopped, in the discussion would be local government chairmen, their assistants and councillors who will from June 1, get their allocations directly
from the multi-breasted centre (Abuja), we will continue to spend our oil wealth on frivolities like pensions for former political office holders.
True fiscal federalism should see states look inwards to generate revenue for their sustenance while remitting agreed percentages to the centre. This way, Nigerians will become more judicious with our resources.
Moreover, the overall economy must be improved quickly so that people’s worth is not only defined by political positions as is the case now. The economic team, under the strict supervision of the president, should ensure more of such personalities can be produced easily by improving the economy.