Abimbola Akosile and Anayo Okolie
Lagos State House of Assembly has re-introduced a bill seeking an amendment to the state’s Pension Law that would give life pension to both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

The latest attempt to give life pension to presiding officers of the Assembly is coming more than a year after a futile bid to amend the state’s Pension Law. The bid was dropped following public outcry.

Opinion leaders and residents of the state had condemned the amendment, when it first came up shortly before the end of the Seventh Assembly in 2015.

The bill titled: “A Bill for A Law to Amend the Payment of Pensions and Other Fringe Benefits to Public Office Holders in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes”, seeks to amend the state Public Office Holders’ Pension Law (2007) by accommodating the Assembly’s presiding officers.

The existing law only provides pensions for former governors and the deputy governors.
Unlike the first attempt which was widely criticised by Lagosians, the current bill which had passed first reading was not publicised. THISDAY gathered that the plan was to ensure that it was passed without attracting public attention.

A lawmaker who pleaded not to be named said the Assembly leadership and some lawmakers were working hard to ensure that the law was passed within the coming weeks.
A copy of the bill obtained by THISDAY showed the various sections proposed for amendment and the replacement of the Schedule of the Principal law with a new Schedule.

The bill which provides that the law will be cited as the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) (Amendment) Law 2016, proposed an amendment of Section 6 of the Principal Law which defines public office holder. The Principal law defined Public office holder as governor and deputy governor.

The amendment bill states as follows: “Section 6 of the Principal Law is amended by deleting the meaning of Public office holder and replacing it with public office holder means the Governor, Deputy Governor, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly.”

In part A of the new schedule proposed to replace the schedule in the principal bill, the governor and deputy governor will receive 50 per cent of their annual basic salary but the allowances and fringe benefits in part B (i) cover the governor, deputy governor, speaker and deputy speaker.

These include accommodation – a one residential house for the public office holder at any location of their choice in Lagos State; furniture – payable every five years en bloc; and transport – one car for the speaker and one pilot car, while the deputy speaker will be provided with one car to be provided by the state. According to the proposed amendment, the speaker and the deputy speaker will also get 10 per cent of their annual basic salary as car maintenance allowance, and another 10 per cent of their annual basic salary as entertainment allowance.

All the public office holders are entitled to domestic staff, cook, steward and gardener, who shall be pensionable.

On medical, the law provides that there shall be free medical treatment for them as well as members of their immediate families. In addition, for security, the bill provided that there shall be one policeman for the Speaker and one policeman for the Deputy Speaker.

All these are coming against the background of the current economic recess in the country, and this is eliciting negative reactions from members of the public.
A source within the Assembly said the lawmakers were also weighing the option of including permanent secretaries that have served in the state in the new Pension Law so that they would not be seen as being selfish.

Late last year, the issue also came up on the floor of the Assembly after a concerned citizen, Alhaji Kola Oseni, wrote to the House seeking that former governor of Lagos State, Lateef Jakande and two former deputy governors, Rafiu Bakare Jafojo and Sinatu Ojikutu should be accommodated in the law.

Segun Olulade, the representative of Epe Constituency 2 in the House, had pleaded with the House to urgently consider the request, noting that during his tenure as Lagos State Governor, Jakande made some positive marks including making it possible for the House to have the first sitting.

In his comments then, Lanre Ogunyemi, the representative of Ojo Constituency 2 at the House, had expressed surprise that Jakande was not part of the beneficiaries of the pension law in the state. He had urged the House to act very fast about it, especially considering Jakande’s immense contribution to the state.

However, in his contribution, Sikiru Osinowo, the representative of Kosofe Constituency I, had urged the House to just use the opportunity to address the inclusion of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker in the proposed amendment that was meant to accommodate Jakande and others in the pension law.

His argument was that Speakers and Deputy Speakers serve their various states longer than state governors and their deputies. He further stressed that the immediate past Speaker of the state, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, served as Speaker for 10 years, adding that it would just be good to consider those who occupy the positions.

Osinowo had argued that: “if the scheme cannot be extended to all members of the House, at least there is nothing bad in including the speaker and the deputy speaker in the law.”
Speaker Mudashiru Obasa had said though he was not sure of any past leader in the state benefitting from the life pension law, the amendment of the law to accommodate the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker was not a bad idea.