NIGERIA- Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, has withdrawn his assent on a controversial bill passed by state House of Assembly seeking life pension for lawmakers.
Commissioner for Information, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, quoted Dickson as conveying the decision to decline assent to the bill in a letter to the Speaker of the Assembly, Kombowei Benson, on Monday.
The governor was said to have 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 saying that the bill was inconsistent with Section 124 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Dickson argued that the State Assembly lacked the powers to expand the categories of public servants who should be entitled to pension.
He said the state was bedeviled with a lot of challenges following low internally generated revenue base and unstable earnings from the oil economy.
He added that if allowed to become law, Bayelsa would be the only state out of Nigeria’s 36 states to come up with such legislation.
The governor said that he was guided in the decision by the principle that government should not be for a select class of the privileged in the society, and would not discard it over seven years into his administration.
He said the lawmakers and indeed the Nigerian populace would attest to the fact that all decisions of his administration were guided by the strong urge to protect the public interest and promote the general good.
He said: “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 Billl 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.
“Honourable members of this Assembly, Bayelsans and other Nigerians following our progress as a government would clearly attest to the fact that my entire public service, actions and decisions are marked by what is in the public interest, particularly the interest of the vulnerable, ordinary people.
“It is in the service of this category of people that in the last seven years and counting, I have in an unprecedented manner which only history will record and reward, extended the frontiers of the benefits of purposeful democratic governance.
“It is my philosophy that government should not be for a select few. In the last seven years, my actions and decisions which have sometimes elicited opposition from the elite who have been feeding fat on the resources of our State, have been marked by this singular disposition of mine.
“And I do not intend at this point to abandon that. Rather I intend to do more and to consolidate on the policies and actions which have been taken to protect the vulnerable.
“Therefore, I am unable to assent to this bill which in my view aims to expand and consolidate the class interest of a privileged few.”
Source- The Nation