Protesters making their displeasure known with the 'NoToPoliticalLifePension' placards
Mar. 16, 2021
On the 11th of March 2021, the Enugu State Gubernatorial Pensions Bill scaled the first reading on the floor of the Enugu State House of Assembly. Ever since then, the news has sparked outrage amongst Enugu state residents on social media.
Enugu’s last internally generated revenue (IGR) was 31 billion naira. This is low, compared to the IGR of other states. For instance, Lagos state has an IGR of 398 billion naira, while Rivers state has an IGR of 67 billion naira. This low level of state IGR is one of the reasons that the Bill, also known as the Life Pensions Bill, has received negative reactions. The bill has been said to be exorbitant and unnecessary in the face of other more pressing issues in Enugu state.
What is the bill about?
The aim of the initiative guides the selection of communities. The selection of communities is The Enugu State Gubernatorial Pensions Bill, if passed into law will repeal the Enugu Gubernatorial Pension Law 2007 and accommodate new amendments including the following:
– A state-funded burial of an ex-governor
– Medical allowance worth 12 million naira for a surviving spouse
– House and vehicle maintenance allowance fixed at 300% of annual salary
– Salary for 5 domestic staff
– Equivalent of annual basic salary while in office
– 3 vehicles to be replaced every 4 years
– Free medical services for the ex-governor and his wife
The life pensions bill is an implementation of the Constitution in Section 124(5). However, with the
excessive amount spent by implementing states, it begs the question, “Is it worth it?”.
22 states currently implement the governors’ pension law with Bauchi (23 billion), Rivers
(2.79billion), Akwa Ibom (2.04 billion), and Lagos (1.6 billion) doling out the highest amount.
Swimming against the tide
With the recent economic difficulties, there have been agitations by civil society groups for state governments to abolish this law. The current law which this bill seeks to replace, already eats deep into the states’ coffer. Therefore, it would not be sufficient for the state to scrap the current bill in deliberation, they must also repeal the already enacted Enugu Gubernatorial Pensions Law 2007 and 2017. This will substantially free up funds to be channeled to more urgent areas of governance.
In November 2020, the Lagos state government, under the leadership of Babajide Sanwoolu, passed a bill to eradicate their own version of this law, the Public office Holder (Payment of Pensions Law 2007). Kwara, Zamfara, and Imo states have followed suit. Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Sokoto, and Enugu state were among the states who have shown little or no willingness to repeal the law. Enugu state, however, took it a step further by introducing a new bill to further solidify the status quo.
Why is it uncalled for?
Enugu’s state IGR for the last fiscal year is approximately 31 billion naira compared to Lagos’s 398 billion naira. If Lagos whose revenue is ten times that of Enugu plans to scrap such a law, why should Enugu do the direct opposite, further diminishing available resources? The state owes its retirees 24 billion naira from 2010 to 2019, and pensioners have been demanding to be paid, to no avail. The state also struggles with water scarcity, with water steadily getting more expensive and less available. The recent hikes in fuel price, electricity tariffs and food costs are already causing people unbearable hardship. Given the current situation of things in the state, this bill is highly insensitive. And the people expect that their elected representatives should understand this.
File Image: Protesters on a procession through Enugu Metropolis
Walking the talk
On the 16th of March 2021, South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO), a non-profit
organization in Enugu state, organized a peaceful protest to register its displeasure with the proposed bill. The aim of the protest was to nip the bill in the bud before it could be passed into law. The protesters moved past strategic points in the Enugu metropolis, raising awareness. They carried placards with the inscription “No To Political Life Pension.” This caught the attention of well-meaning Enugu citizens, some of who stopped and joined the procession. The march ended at the Enugu State House of Assembly. Media houses arrived in their numbers. The group sang solidarity songs while recounting the problem to the media. After a while, protesters gained access into the complex.
Speaking at the State House of Assembly, the Executive Director, Dr. Stanley Ilechukwu, said, “the NGO joins its voice with that of other well-meaning citizens of the state to condemn the bill.” He also stated that “this egregious bill is a needlessly exorbitant gift for an already well-compensated service to the government.”
File Image: Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly , Rt Hon Edward Ubosi addressing the protesters
Audience with the speaker
On arrival at the base of the complex, the Speaker, Rt. Hon Edward Ubosi addressed the
protesters. He commended the conduct of the exercise. He said the law had existed since 2007, amended in 2017, and this present amendment is to accommodate past governors who are Enugu indigenes.
“We have stepped it down for further considerations. After looking at it, we will form a committee, and invite the public to make their contributions. If you don’t like it, we will cancel it. It is not our bill, it is yours.”
The process will be monitored, and we hope that the Speaker keeps his word. We will draw attention to the public hearing once announced. We believe the House should junk this bill in its entirety. The taxpayers are already under enormous strain from the increased cost of living and do not need the added burden of unjustifiable pensions to retired executives. We hope the representatives would do what is right for the people of Enugu, who have entrusted them with their mandate.