An anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has urged Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, not to give assent to a bill proposing life pensions for the principal officers of the state House of Assembly.
In an open letter on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, SERAP said it was aware that Bayelsa lawmakers last week passed a bill that would grant life pensions to the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other members of the state House of Assembly.
The bill, the group noted, proposed N500,000 monthly pay for the Speaker; N200,000 for the Deputy Speaker, and N100,000 for each of the 24 other members of the House.
But SERAP, which described the proposed life pensions for the lawmakers as abuse of office, warned Dickson against giving his assent to the bill.
It warned that it would take the governor to court should he give assent to the bill.
It said, “The bill amounts to an incorrect and improper performance of public functions. It’s clearly an abuse of legislative functions by the lawmakers. Rather than sponsoring bills that would improve access of children in Bayelsa to quality education, the lawmakers are taking advantage of their entrusted public positions to propose a bill to collect large severance benefits.
“The lawmakers are clearly the major beneficiaries under the proposed legislation. Therefore, by passing the life pension bill, the lawmakers of Bayelsa State House of Assembly have violated the constitutional and international prohibitions on conflicts of interest.
“The people of Bayelsa would expect you, as their governor, to use your entrusted public office to act in the public interest, including by rejecting the life pension bill and prevailing upon the House of Assembly to immediately drop the bill.
“It is forbidden for any public official, including lawmakers, to engage in self-dealing, and place him/herself in a position of conflicting interests and to hold incompatible functions or illicitly engage in providing to him/herself emoluments deemed unacceptable, unconstitutional and illegal.”
Also, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Mr Preye Aganaba, has joined other Bayelsans in condemning the life pension bill proposed for Bayelsa State House of Assembly members.
Aganaba described the bill as self-centered, insensitive, preposterous and a sad reflection of the inordinate desire of the lawmakers for self-enrichment.
This is coming as Bayelsans, including civil society organisations, political parties and other well meaning individuals are preparing to hit the streets in protest over the bill on Monday (today).
He said the inconsiderate nature of the bill was a direct assault on the sensibilities of majority of Bayelsans who live below poverty line.
Aganaba said the outrage shown by the people of the state against the ‘rapacious bill is an indication of the total rejection of a bill that serves no purpose than enrich the pockets of a select few but impoverish the lives of thousands of Bayelsans.’
A statement by his media aide, Kariebi Prekebena, on Sunday, called for a complete reversal of the life pension bill.
He said, “Passing of the bill last Wednesday by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly unfolds a new chapter on the insatiable greed of the Bayelsa State legislative arm and of all the laws passed by the House since the inception of the current Assembly, the preferential Life Pension Bill, is the most controversial and insensitive.
“It is sad that at a time the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is putting in place palliatives to improve the standard of living for citizens of the country, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly is still in the business of passing retrogressive bills with no incentive for the people they claim to represent.
“It is outrageous that a state government which found the payment of workers’ salaries a major challenge, a situation which led to the now famous “half of half” salary, is planning on giving assent to a bill to pay a whopping sum of N.5m and N.1m to the lawmakers as pension.
“This is nothing more than an exploitative, mercenary plot to further plunge Bayelsans into bottom line poverty.”
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