Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State urging him to reject the proposed life pension bill by the leader of the House of Assembly Peter Akpe.
The group also urged Dickson to prevail upon the House to immediately withdraw the self-serving bill.”
The House had last week passed a bill that would grant life pensions to speakers, deputy speakers and other members.
Under the bill, speakers will go home with N500,000 monthly, while deputy speakers will receive N200,000. 24 other members will each get N100,000. The House is seeking life pensions for members similar to those “applicable to former presidents, vice-presidents, governors and deputy governors across the country.”
SERAP said: “Public officials have a legal commitment to discharge a public duty truthfully and faithfully. Should you assent to the bill as proposed, SERAP will institute legal proceedings to challenge the legality of the legislation and ensure full compliance with constitutional provisions and Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations.”
In the letter dated 26 April 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The bill amounts to an incorrect and improper performance of public functions. It’s clearly an abuse of legislative functions by the lawmakers. Rather than sponsoring bills that would improve access of children in Bayelsa to quality education, the lawmakers are taking advantage of their entrusted public positions to propose a bill to collect large severance benefits.”
“The lawmakers are clearly the major beneficiaries under the proposed legislation. Therefore, by passing the life pension bill, the lawmakers of Bayelsa State House of Assembly have violated the constitutional and international prohibitions on conflicts of interest.”
“The people of Bayelsa would expect you, as their governor, to use your entrusted public office to act in the public interest, including by rejecting the life pension bill and prevailing upon the House of Assembly to immediately drop the bill,” SERAP said in its letter.
“Conflicts of interest as well as perceptions of such conflicts would undermine public confidence in the integrity and honesty of not only the Bayelsa State House of Assembly but also your government, if urgent action is not taken to prevail upon the House to drop the outrageous bill.”
“SERAP notes that Bayelsa State has in recent years received trillions of Naira from the federation account. Yet, according to the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), over 265,000 Nigerian children lack access to basic education in the State. The public funds that would be spent to pay life pensions to the lawmakers could be well used to address the problem of growing rate of out-of-school children in the state.”
“It is forbidden for any public official including lawmakers to engage in self-dealing, and place him/herself in a position of conflicting interests and to hold incompatible functions or illicitly engage in providing to him/herself emoluments deemed unacceptable, unconstitutional and illegal.”