REPEAL EX-GOVERNORS PENSION LAW NOW, LAWYER TELLS AKWA IBOM ASSEMBLY

REPEAL EX-GOVERNORS PENSION LAW NOW, LAWYER TELLS AKWA IBOM ASSEMBLY

…We’ll consider amendment or abrogation at appropriate time – AKHA

Itoro BASSEY

As the Akwa Ibom State House of a ssembly sets to resume legislative business tomorrow, Tuesday, January 21, a lawyer, Barr Victor Ukutt, has called on the legislature to immediately abrogate the law granting pensions to former governors and former deputy governors of the state.

Ukutt who featured as guest on The Peoples’ Parliament on Planet FM, a private radio station in Uyo, on Thursday, last week, contended that the law was in conflict with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

A Managing Solicitor of Whyte Horse Solicitors, Lagos, and a partner at Jaycee Gold Solicitors in Stratford, London, Barr Ukutt described the action of the Assembly that enacted the law as “irresponsible”.

Ukutt, who said that the House of Assembly did not have the constitutional powers to enact such law, urged the state lawmakers to pass a consequential enactment repealing the law in order to stop former governors and former deputy governors from accessing the funds.

He said that the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) was the only body vested with the responsibility of fixing the remuneration of public office holders and their entitlements after they leave office.

“Pension is under the Exclusive Legislative List of the National Assembly. It is only the National Assembly that can enact laws relating to pensions.

“The governor of a state is not a public officer as defined under Sections 173, 210, and 291 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria entitled to a pension.

“The house of assembly members sold themselves out by passing the pension law for former governors and former deputy governors because of the peanuts given to them by the governor.

“Members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly who are supposed to check the excesses of the governor are now in the pocket of the governor”, Ukutt said.

The Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law was first introduced in Akwa Ibom State in 1999 during the administration of former Governor Victor Attah. A second one was enacted in 2014 during the tenure of former Governor Godswill Akpabio. It was subsequently amended in 2015, said Barr Aniefiok Dennis Akpan, Deputy Leader, and Chairman of the Akwa Ibom Assembly Committee on Information.

“The law is not a federal law in any manner whatsoever, we have that legislative competence to legislate on it.

“We have the existing laws that date back to 29th May, 1999, that was when (Victor) Attah was governor. Another one came when (Godswill) Akpabio was governor in 2014, which was subsequently amended in 2015.

“The laws are in existence, and there’s nobody that can challenge them. We are yet to consider them. But, at the appropriate time, maybe when we resume, we will look at them to see whether we will amend or abrogate them completely. As of now, they are laws of the state assembly. It is an extant law”, Dennis said.

PROPELLER newspaper observes that the former governors and former deputy governors Pension Law 2014 provides pension for life at a rate equivalent to the salary of the incumbent governor and deputy governor, to a former governor and former deputy governor.

The law also provides for a former governor a sum not exceeding N5 million per month to employ domestic staff, while a former deputy gets N2.5 million for the same purpose.

A former governor is programmed, under the same law, to enjoy free medical services for himself and his spouse at a sum not exceeding N100 million per annum and N50 million for a former deputy governor.

At the same time, the same law provides for a former governor a befitting accommodation not below a five-bedroom maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom State, together with a yearly accommodation allowance of 300 per cent of annual basic salary for an ex-deputy governor; while a former governor will also receive a severance gratuity of 300 per cent of annual basic salary as at the time he leaves office.

PROPELLER newspaper recalls that a wide public outcry greeted the amendment of the law in 2015, the matter which prompted former Governor Godswill Akpabio to transmit it back to the House (then led by Mr Sam Ikon) where the controversial portion of the law was repealed.

It was said at the time that the governor and the lawmakers reasoned that the section that had attracted the nationwide condemnation was the provision for free medical services for former governors and former deputy governors and their spouses at a sum not exceeding N100 million and N50 million per annum, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Zamfara State House of Assembly in late November, 2019, became the first state to abolish the pension law for former governors and their deputies, together with former speakers of the state House of Assembly and their deputies.

This happened after a former governor, Abdul’aziz Yari, in a leaked letter to the state government, requested his N10 million ‘monthly upkeep’, which he said had not been paid for some months.

At the presentation of the bill before the assembly, lawmakers were said to have voted overwhelmingly for a complete repeal of the law.

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