NEWS AND STORIES
By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna)/ GUARDIAN.NG
*Assembly gets 21-day ultimatum to kill bill
An attempt by the Enugu State House of Assembly to amend the law that provides life pensions for former governors and their deputies has elicited outrage.
This is as a known socio-political group, Save Enugu Group (SEG), yesterday, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the lawmakers to kill the bill in the interest of peace and good governance.
Also, the Enugu State Continuity and Equity Movement (ESCEM) described the move as “disappointing, misappropriation of priorities and legislative rascality”, wondering why such a bill should come up for deliberation at “ a time the state is facing numerous challenges that required urgent legislative input.”
In a statement by its Acting State Coordinator, Chukwuebuka Aneke and State Publicity Secretary, Onyendozi Onwe, the movement stated that it was a pointer that the lawmakers were not aware of the sufferings of the residents and challenged them to initiate a bill to criminalise non-payment of gratuity and pensions to retired civil servants as and when due.
The executive bill, which was presented for first reading during plenary last Thursday, seeks to provide gratuity as well as pension for life for governors and their deputies upon successful completion of tenures.
It also makes provision for medical allowance not exceeding N12 million yearly for one surviving spouse once married to the governor while in office.
Whereas the state government would provide adequate security for the ex-governors for their lifetime, proposed legislation, when passed, would also mandate government to provide three vehicles for the erstwhile chief executive replaceable every four years.
The bill reads: “A person who had held office as elected governor or deputy governor in Enugu State or any other state should be entitled to pension for life.
“When a former governor or former deputy governor dies, the state government should make adequate arrangements and bear the financial responsibility for his burial.
“The state government should pay a condolence allowance of a sum equivalent to the yearly basic salary of the incumbent to his next of kin, among others.”
Reacting to the development, National Coordinator of SEG, Chief Willy Ezeugwu, submitted: “It is shocking that while a state like Lagos, with high internally generated revenue (IGR) that runs into billions of naira monthly, has abolished pensions for former governors, the Enugu State House of Assembly allowed such a bill to pass first reading when such a law will deplete the state’s meagre revenue by over N2 billion yearly.”
He said the group was mobilising “conscious citizens, civil society groups and labour unions to shut down Enugu State House of Assembly for as long as it will take to kill this most insensitive bill.”
But justifying the move, Leader of the State House of Assembly, Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, told The Guardian that the bill had been in existence since 2007, stressing that the review was prompted by the fact that it was not all-embracing.