pension

March 26, 2024

Abolition of pension for govs, deputies excites Abia senators, others

Japa: Stay, tackle health challenges, Otti begs Abia varsity medical graduates

Gov Alex Otti

By Steve Oko

The  abolition of pension for former governors and their deputies following the repeal of the law by the Abia State House of Assembly, and subsequent assent by Governor Alex Otti has continued to elicit reactions by stakeholders in the state. 

Recall that an Executive Bill titled: “The Abia State Governor’s and Deputy Governor’s Pensions Law Repeal Bill 2024″ was sponsored by the Otti-led Government through the Majority Leader and member representing Arochukwu state constituency in the House of Assembly, Okoro Uchenna Kalu.

The bill was introduced on the floor of the House on Tuesday, March 19, given accelerated hearing by the lawmakers, and subsequently passed into law same day.

 Announcing the passage of the bill, Speaker of the House of Assembly , Emmanuel Emeruwa, said it was  in tandem with the yearnings of the majority of Abians, insisting that the current Assembly will always make people-centric laws.

On Thursday March 21, the bill was transmitted to Governor Otti who immediately  signed it into law, saying among others “Even before this new law came into place, a lot of people who have followed our views in the national discuss understand that we were not going to continue the practice of paying pensions and allowances to this set of former government officials.”

Obasanjo, ex-govs react 

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was among early commentators to applaud the action during a courtesy visit on  Gov. Otti about 12 hours after it was signed into law.

Obasanjo who  described the abolished Pension law as “rascality and daylight robbery”, commended Otti for his courage and the bold move.

The former President argued that it was unjust to pay jumbo pension to  former Governors and their Deputies while civil servants who served the state for many decades were being owed. He urged other Governors to follow Otti’s  footsteps.

“It is like trouble because it allowed them to have a house in Abuja and elsewhere, and it allowed them to cart away with whatever they can, yet the pensions of ordinary people from 2014 were unpaid. 

“You came and said there will be an end to that rascality. I congratulate you, and I say to you, I hope that your colleagues will follow your footsteps?”

Obasanjo was not alone on the commendation list as a number of Abia stakeholders have equally backed the Governor on the action.

Reacting, three former Governors of the state – Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Theodore Orji, and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, flatly denied ever receiving a dime from the State Government as pension since leaving office.

Their deputies however, are yet to comment at the time of this report 

Serving senators, eminent citizens among other stakeholders bore their minds on the abolition of the pension for former governors and their deputies.

Ohuabunwa

The former National President of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, and a presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2023, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said political office holders should not be entitled to pensions.

Among others, he said “From a philosophical and principled point of view, I have been opposed to payment of pension to political office holders. Political assignment is not a career job.

“ Some of them would have served for four years or eight years but that is not enough to earn pension. You get pension for a career job after working for certain number of years. The job is an adhoc job and that is why it is well priced. They are well paid.

“ When they were in office especially the Governors, they were overfed and cared for. They took their security votes which should have been for official use, and turned it into personal use. After all that, they still want to rip off the same people they have abused.

“ These are the things that are causing the erosion of public funds and public trust. “

Ohuabunwa, further described as”annoying, the humongous amount” proposed as pension package for the Governors and their Deputies.

“ It’s insulting, it’s abusive, it’s repressive. So, any state that cancels the pension law, receives my support, and Abia, of course, has my support”.

Wabara

Former Senate President and the  Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Board of Trustees, BoT, Senator Adolphus Wabara, however, said that the proposal for a pension package for former Governors and their Deputies, was not a bad idea, but lamented that it was abused in some states.

He said “In my considered opinion, it was well intended to dissuade Governors from being corrupt while in office. The idea was that if such a law was passed, the Governors would be contented with whatever they are earning, believing that when they leave office, they will have something to fall back on.

“ I think the intension is to dissuade the Governors from grabbing and grabbing for the rainy day when they leave office.

“ You know these Governors take laws into their hands. They may have abused it since they are naturally in charge of their  State House of Assembly. They install and control the Speaker.”

Senator Wabara, however, wished he had details of what the pension package of the Governors and their Deputies were, so as to make further comments on the matter.

Nwogu 

Similarly, the All Progressives Congress, APC Senator,  representing Abia Central , Nkechi Nwogu, threw her weight behind the abolition, saying  “ Pension is for civil servants who have served for 30 years. So, where does a governor who has just served for four or eight years fit in? They pay themselves security votes while in office.

“ If Governors are agitating for pension payment, what about Local Government Chairmen? Why won’t they also be paid?

“ I totally agree with the Abia State House of Assembly in revoking the law. But from what I heard, the irony is that this has never been paid to any of the former Governors. The revocation also shows that Gov. Otti is sensitive to the plights of the people.”

Ugochukwu 

Similarly, former Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC,  Onyema Ugochukwu, also supported the abolition of the pension law, arguing that it has to be debated and agreed to by the people.

“ I’m not in support of the kind of pension governors are being awarded in many states including Abia over the years. It’s difficult to justify that. So, I think our Governor has done the right thing.  If we are going to do it, the we should discuss it properly and know exactly what the people are paying for.”

Bishop Opoko 

Baring his mind on the issue, the Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia Diocese, Archbishop Raphael Opoko, said former Governors and their Deputies should take a cue from the former Governor of Anambra State and the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 poll, on pension matters.

“Haven’t you heard that Peter Obi rejected pension? He governed for eight years but he refused to touch anything including house and vehicles as pension. So, what is the difference between him and others?

“ They came to serve the people and not to rip them off. We should have people‐oriented services.”

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