At a two-day retreat on Constitution Review in Lagos by the Senate Adhoc Committee on Constitution Review, some presiding members of the Senate proposed an amendment to the Constitution which will entitle the Senate President and his Deputy, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his Deputy to life-time pension.
Those in support of the proposal including the Deputy Senate, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, argue that the executive and the judiciary enjoy this privilege, so why not the legislature.
They similarly argue that: “Governors who spend just four years, enjoy it. So, presiding officers should enjoy it too… Let us stand by our leaders. They should enjoy this benefit. They act on behalf of us… They are equal to the executive and judiciary and should therefore enjoy the same benefit”.
However, the more discerning members like Senators Ali Ndume (Majority Leader), Godswill Akpabio (Minority Leader) and Oluremi Tinubu reportedly opposed the proposed amendment on the following grounds:-
· Excessive privileges for Senate President and House Speaker and their Deputies are neither desirable nor necessary;
· Senate President/House Speaker are elected by members and not the public, unlike President and Governors and their Deputies;
· The privileges already enjoyed by the leadership of the two chambers are enormous;
· Unlike the leadership of the executive, the leadership of the legislature has no tenure limitation.
We at the Nigeria Labour Congress would want to go on record as having opposed the idea of putting the President and Speaker of the House of Representatives and their Deputies on life pension.
We have quoted copiously from the arguments for life pension in order to expose the ludicrousness and vanity of their logic.
We are convinced, nothing but ego and greed are the over-riding interest for wanting to put the leadership of the Legislature on life pension.
What the governors have done is unrealistic and immoral and rather than ensure the right thing is done, some Senators have elected to set-up for themselves a model that is at once bad, immoral, illegal and unsustainable.
The concept of pension derives from 35 years of meritorious service. However, politicians in time, subverted this time-honoured practice by nawarding themselves generous severance packages after four years in office. These packages not only make a mockery of what public servants take, the beneficiaries are paid up front while the average public service pensioner dies on the verification queue!.
The height of this infamy and greed was when exiting governors literally coerced or seduced State Houses of Assembly into writing into “Law” their severance packages which take a sizeable per centage of the state’s budget.
We at the Congress believe that politics is about service-delivery and not robbery. Senators should therefore get their priorities right, whip themselves into line and perform the tasks for which they are elected.
These tasks as defined by the constitution are law-making, over-sight and investigation.
There are issues in the Constitution begging for attention such as devolution of power, autonomy for local governments etc. These are amendments that will not only bring government closer to the people but will unleash the potentials of local government councils.
We also expect the Senate to outlaw the criminal pensions for ex-governors and any other undeserving retiree through an amendment of the Constitution.
Similarly, Nigerians have consistently expressed their desire to have removed from the Constitution absolute immunity clause for President and Governors and their Deputies. Rather than heed to their demand, Senators are more interested in feathering their nests or how they can over-shine the executive and their judiciary in perks and perquisites.
In their blind quest, they completely forgot that for any member of the judiciary to qualify for life pension, he or she must have spent a minimum of 35 years in service.
Finally, the Senate is advised to be focused instead of indulging in self-serving frivolities. Anything to the contrary will draw the wrath of the people.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni.