The Enugu State House of Assembly Tuesday dropped a proposed law that would allow former governors and their deputies to draw life pension. The New Pension Bill, which scaled first reading during last Thursday’s plenary, however, was greeted with public anger because it proposed that tax payers pay up over N1 billion annually to allow former governors and their deputies to continue to live in opulence.
However, condemnations forced the House during Tuesday’s plenary to step down the bill following a motion by the Leader of the House, Ikechukwu Ezugwu, who is the sponsor of the bill. In the motion, he said the bill, though not out of place, had to be stepped down because of the mass outcry that greeted it. “As their representatives, we must listen,” he said. According to him, the proposed legislation needs “wide consultation” if it must be reintroduced. Speaker Edward Ubosi, on his own part, said there were provisions of the bill that were not constitutional, such as payment of salaries to spouses of former governors and their deputies.
If the bill had passed, it would have made Enugu the 23 state to have approved life pensions for former governors and other ex public officials. The other states that have done so include Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta, Kano, Gombe, Yobe; Borno, Bauchi, Abia, Imo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Ondo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Niger, Kogi and Katsina.
They went ahead to do so in spite of the decision of a Federal High Court in Lagos in December 2019 stopping former political office holders from drawing life pensions. In the landmark judgement, the court ordered the federal government to “recover pensions collected by former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly” and directed the Attorney General of Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex officials to collect such pensions.” The judgement by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo followed an application for an order of mandamus in suit number FHC/L/CS/1497/2017 brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
We utterly condemned what those states had done, not only because their actions were morally wrong but also because they went against a subsisting court order. We are a nation governed by rule of law. No arm of government must go against the decision of another without first vacating that decision. To do so will be to undermine the rule of law.
At the same time, we commend the decision of the Enugu House to stand down the New Pensions Bill and reintroduce it only after “consulting widely” on it. It is a triumph of reason over emoti