Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, has declined assent to the bill seeking pension for current and former lawmakers of the state as hastily proposed and passed by the state House of Assembly last week.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, said the governor has already conveyed the decision to withhold assent to the bill in a letter to the Speaker of the state House of Assembly yesterday.
Earlier, Dickson held consultations with the assembly members in his country home in Toru-Orua, Sagbama local council, where he explained his reason for declining assent to the bill.
Iworiso-Markson noted that the governor refused to sign the bill into law because it was inconsistent with Section 124 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
He said the governor was of the view that the state assembly lacked the powers to expand the categories of public servants who should be entitled to pension.
The commissioner stressed that he had to withhold assent to the bill because the state which bedeviled with a lot of challenges in spite of its low internally generated revenue base and unstable earnings from the oil economy was the only state in Nigeria to come up with such bill.
The governor stressed that he was guided in the decision by the principle that government should not be for a selected class of the privileged in the society.
According to him, “The provisions of this bill granting pension to members of Bayelsa State House of Assembly and the extension of same to former members of the assembly and Bayelsa indigenes who served in the old Rivers State House of Assembly is inconsistent with Section 124 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“I am not convinced about the legality of this bill which seeks to expand the categories of persons entitled to pension. While I agree that the assembly can adjust the quantum of pension payable to persons entitled to pension, I am not convinced that the assembly has powers to add to the categories of pensionable public officers.
“Evidently, there is no record of any other state in this country that has expanded the categories of pensionable public officers to include lawmakers. I do not agree that Bayelsa State which is coping with all the myriads of issues and challenges, with our low Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) base and the unpredictable oil economy, should be the first to initiate this.
“Honourable members of this assembly, Bayelsans and other Nigerians following our progress as a government would clearly attest to the fact that my entire public service, actions and decisions are marked by what is in the public interest, particularly the interest of the vulnerable and ordinary people.
“It is in the service of this category of people that in the last seven years and counting, I have in an unprecedented manner, which only history will record and reward, extended the frontiers of the benefits of purposeful democratic governance.
“It is my philosophy that government should not be for a select few. In the last seven years, my actions and decisions which have sometimes elicited opposition from the elite who have been feeding fat on the resources of our state, have been marked by this singular disposition of mine.
“And I do not intend at this point to abandon that. Rather, I intend to do more and to consolidate on the policies and actions which have been taken to protect the vulnerable. Therefore, I am unable to assent to this bill which in my view aims to expand and consolidate the class interest of a privileged few.”
Dickson added that notwithstanding his decision to decline assent to the bill, he still holds the assembly in very high esteem.