Condemnations Trail Passage Of Pension Rights Bill With Former Acting Governor As Beneficiary

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For including the state former acting governor, Sam Obi in the just passed governors and deputies pension rights bill, series of condemnations, backlashes and protests have greeted the passage of the bill by the Delta state house of Assembly.

Deltans had before the final passage of the bill last week, protested against the state Assembly and the governor, Ifeanyi Okowa for allegedly using some principal officers of the house to push the pension rights bill and have his kinsman and former acting governor, Obi, who acted just for six weeks only included.

Sam Obi acted as governor in 2010 for only six weeks when former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s election was annulled by the Court of Appeal in Benin and a re-run election was conducted.

The passage of the pension rights bill, our correspondent reliably gathered, did not go down well with some lawmakers but for fear of victimization, they maintained their cool, apart from Reuben Izeze, member representing Ughelli South II constituency who openly opposed the bill and staged a walk out during its final passage.

Reacting to the passage of the bill, a Warri based human rights lawyer, Maxwell Ogedegbe, described the action of the Assembly men as shameful and condemnable, and warned governor Ifeanyi Okowa not to sign the bill passed by “our shameless and dishonourable assembly men into law.

“It is sad that the governors and deputy governors pension and other benefits law imposed on Deltans is today amended for the sole benefit of one individual who served as a governor in an acting capacity for a less than 90 days period and plunged the state into a 20 billion debt is been rewarded with life pension. It is sad, shameful and disgraceful.”

Also reacting in a statement entitled “Delta State Assembly Members Have Lost Their Minds With The Passage Of The Bill Granting Pension To Former Acting Governor, signed by the National Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC), Zik Gbemre, lambasted the state legislature.

“Our Delta state lawmakers, are not only irresponsible, but they are also a bunch of people who have lost their minds. How can a reasonable set of people supposedly elected to represent the interest of their people, be more comfortable and concerned about making political leaders richer, while the poor people they are meant to serve, are left to starve. Well, if they like, let them budget all the available State’s money to pay the few politicians in the State.”

Also in the same vein, the Isoko Monitoring Group, (IMG), in a protest letter entitled “Protest Against The Bill Conferring On Rt. Hon Sam Obi The Status And Retirement Benefits Of A Former Governor”, addressed to the governor Ifeanyi Okowa, signed by Kingsley Oroh, and obtained by our correspondent, warned the governor not to assent to the bill.

The group while frowning at the action of the state Assembly, expressed their displeasure, saying “We wish to formally register our displeasure and embarrassment as Deltans that in such an age and time with the dwindling revenue to the state government that the leadership of the Delta State House of Assembly can conceive such an anti-people legislation.

“The said bill is not only unpopular with the majority of the people of Delta State but that same is an embarrassment to the entire people of Delta State and waste of tax payers money especially when a State  like Zamfara State has seen the light that bogus retirement for public officers are not in the interest of the society. We therefore urge your Excellency to decline assent to the said bill in the interest of the people of Delta State and for posterity sake.”

The group therefore vowed to seek legal redress should the governor goes ahead to give assent to the controversial bill.

Also condemning the passage of the bill, a human rights activist, Israel Joe and Emmanuel Igbini, National President, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD), described as unfortunate the action of the state legislators, saying its illegal and unconstitutional and warned the governor against assenting to the bill.

Speaking in defence of the bill, the majority leader, Delta state house of Assembly and Chairman, House Committee on Information, Tim Owhefere, said, they acted within their constitutional powers.

“All over the world, state legislative houses are constitutionally empowered to make laws for the governance of the State. Delta State House of Assembly remains committed to putting the state and it’s people first in the discharge of all of its duties. First, let me put it on record that the Bill is a Private Member Bill which I sponsored. 

“Those who may express misgivings over the Bill may be those who are yet to read it’s content. We do not intend to grant jumbo pay to the former acting governor as been speculated. What we are saying is that for the fact that someone at some point played the role of a governor, he/she deserve some entitlements no matter how small.

“While some states approved jumbo amounts running into millions as pension for their former governors, the monthly take home pay for the former chief executive in Delta State is about four hundred and fifty thousand naira, while that of acting governor is three hundred and fifty thousand naira which is a little higher than that of a permanent secretary.”

Meanwhile some of the benefits to be enjoyed by Obi if the bill is assented to by the governor include a well-furnished five bedroom duplex in Delta State and any other state in Nigeria worth over N300m, a well-furnished and equipped office in any location of the state of his choice, two armed policemen and one State Security officer not below the rank of a DSO.

Two vehicles every two years, which must not be below the sum of N20m each, one of them must be a utility vehicle, free medical treatment for Obi and members of his immediate family including within and outside Nigeria, 15 days annual vacation anywhere within and outside Nigeria among others.

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