By Nathan Nwakamma
Gov. Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa on Monday heeded to public outcry and declined assent to the bill seeking life pension for the state lawmakers as canvassed by the state House of Assembly.
The 24-member legislature on April 24 hurriedly passed the proposed pension bill for current and past members.
The Bill proposed a monthly pension of N100,000 for members while the Speaker and Deputy Speaker will be entitled to N500,000 and N200,000, respectively.
But the state Commissioner for Information, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson, quoted the governor as having said that he conveyed the decision to withhold assent to the Bill in a letter to the Speaker òf the Bayelsa State House òf Assembly on Monday.
According to him, the governor held consultations with the Assembly members in his country home of Toru-Orua, where he explained his reason for declining assent.
Iworiso-Markson quoted the governor as having said that the bill was inconsistent with Section 124 of the Constitution òf the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Dickson said that he was of the view that the State Assembly lacked the powers to expand the categories of public servants who should be entitled to pension.
“The provisions of this Bill granting pension to members of Bayelsa State House òf Assembly and the extension of same to former members of the Assembly and Bayelsa indigenes who served in the Old Rivers State House of Assembly, is inconsistent with Section 124 of the Constitution òf the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“I am not convinced about the legality of this Bill which seeks to expand the categories of persons entitled to 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,” Dickson said.
The opposition, All Progressives Congress (APC), Civil Society groups and civil servants had condemned the lawmakers for passing the bill they described as self seeking.
Dickson said that despite withholding his assent to the bill, he still holds the Assembly in very high esteem.