DELEGATES, yesterday, agreed that, Senators, members of House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly should be on part- time basis as against the present structure of full time.
While discussing the report of the Engr. Ebele Okeke-led Committee on Public Service, delegates also agreed that payment of pension, severance and life insurance to governors and their deputies and
legislators at all levels be cancelled.
The recommendation under consideration read: “Legislators at the national and state levels should function on part-time basis while their allowances should be comparable with what obtains in other arms of the public service. Payment of pensions, life insurance and severance for legislators (where they exist) should be cancelled in line with global best practices.”
Another recommendation was that lawmakers, governors and their deputies should receive salaries and allowances commensurate to the functions they perform.
Delegates also approved that any civil servant who engaged in contract for pecuniary gains be dismissed from service and urged the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of National Health Insurance Scheme, NHI.
While delegates rejected the recommendation of the Committee that retirement age for civil servants be moved upward from 60 years or 35 years of service to 65 years, they however voted for the retention of status quo of retirement age of 60 for workers in public service.
There was also succour for people living with disabilities as delegates voted that governments at all levels should grant allowance to them which will be equivalent to government workers on grade level 06 as that would enable them employ the services of private aides to assist them in carrying out private and domestic activities.
Recommendation on the creation of Foreign Service Commission was unanimously accepted by delegates, who also approved that the President appoints members of the Federal Character Commission on recommendation of state governments and subject to Senate confirmation.
They also agreed that the Head of Service be appointed among federal and state permanent secretaries, adding that the civil service at the federal and state levels be operated on equal levels, just as they voted for the establishment of State Character Commission in all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
While opening the debate on the committee’s report late Tuesday before adjournment to yesterday, Engr. Okeke explained that it was the recommendation of her committee that payment of pension, Life insurance and severance for legislators, where they exist, should be cancelled in line with global best practices.
The committee in its recommendation also called for the review of the salaries of the lawmakers toward ensuring that their allowances “should be comparable with what obtains in other arms of the public service, even as it recommended for upward review of retirement age to 65 years of age or 40 years of service from the present practice of 60 years of age or 35 years of service.
On high cost of governance, the committee recommended that Ministers, Commissioners and Local Government Chairmen should discontinue with the appointment of ‘Special Advisers’ and Special Assistants’ as cost-saving measure, adding that these categories of political office holders should utilise the staff of their ministries where it becomes necessary as contained in Circular Ref. No.B63833/73 of January 3, 2000.
The Committee said, “While it is appreciated that the nature of Presidential system of Government necessitates the appointment of ‘Special Advisers’ and Special Assistants’ to the President, the Vice President, the Governor and the Deputy Governor, its extension to Ministers, Commissioners and Local Government Chairmen should be discontinued as a cost-saving measure.
In order to make for good governance, the committee recommended that September deadline for presentation of Appropriation Bill by the Executive to the National Assembly should be enshrined in the Constitution.
The committee specifically recommended that Section 81 (1) of the 1999 Constitution should be amended to specify time line for the submission and approval of the Budget by the Executive and the Legislature respectively, such that Budget implementation could commence on January 2, every year, adding that passage of the Bill by the National Assembly should not be later than November 30 while the Presidential assent should be within 30 days.
It also recommended that the SGF should be appointed from the pool of experienced and knowledgeable retired civil servants, adding that appointment of SGF should be based on managerial capacity and rich civil service experience.
Also contributing, a Federal Government delegate at the Conference, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN who agreed with the recommendation of the Committee on part-time legislature, said, I want to agree with the committee that we don’t need 360 members in the House of Representatives and 109 members of the Senate. “In America, they have 435 members in the House of Representatives and 100 Senators because in population they are 316 million people. Texas and California alone are bigger than the whole of Nigeria. So we don’t necessarily have to imitate them. We need to have a leaner government. It is either we have a unicameral legislature or if it must be bicameral, then they have to sit on part-time basis and be paid honorarium.”