Benue Assembly Passes Controversial Bill Granting Luxury Rewards to Ex-Governors
The Benue State House of Assembly has passed the controversial executive pension bill.
POLITICS NIGERIA reports that this decision comes on the heels of the lawmakers receiving an alert for three months’ worth of salary arrears, along with payment for the three months’ overhead owed by the state government.
Earlier, the lawmakers had suspended their sittings due to the non-payment of six months’ salary arrears and three months’ overhead.
One of the lawmakers, who preferred to remain anonymous, had previously informed our correspondent that the decision to suspend sittings and withhold the passage of the contentious executive bill was made until their rightful entitlements were settled, The Punch reports.
The pension bill, which has sparked criticism from various quarters within the state, including the governor-elect, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, seeks to bestow ex-governors and their deputies with extravagant gratuity, pension, and other benefits.
Under this bill, former governors would be entitled to a permanent residential accommodation in any location they choose across the country. Additionally, the bill mandates the provision of four new cars every four years for former governors and two new cars every four years for former deputy governors.
Furthermore, the bill allows for the employment of six personal staff members for former governors and three for former deputy governors, with the state covering their salaries. The bill also guarantees free medical treatment for ex-governors, their spouses, and up to four children under the age of 18.
Allegedly, the outgoing government, determined to ensure the bill’s passage, coerced some assembly members to resume sittings while simultaneously dispatching thugs to prevent dissenting voices from accessing the assembly complex.
Following the receipt of the salary arrears alert, the lawmakers reportedly convened a plenary session where the bill was passed with significant modifications.
Bem Ngutyo, the minority leader of the house, confirmed that the bill had been passed but with notable adjustments.
He stated, “Yes, the house has just passed the bill, but we significantly reduced its contents. The provision for four cars to governors was reduced to two, and two cars for deputies were reduced to one. The provision for governors to choose accommodation anywhere was completely removed. Likewise, the provision for biannual medical trips abroad was reduced to once a year.”
When asked if the governor had settled the outstanding six months’ salary arrears and three months’ overhead, Ngutyo responded, “We have received an alert for three months’ salary out of six,” adding that the three months’ overhead had also been paid.
Corroborating the minority leader’s statement, Tertsea Gbisea, Chairman of the House Committee on Information, confirmed the bill’s passage with extensive changes. However, he did not disclose the specific portions that were modified.
Gbisea stated, “Yes, a version of the Maintenance of Former Elected Governors of Benue State Bill was passed today, with extensive changes made to the version proposed by the executive. We took into account the dire financial situation of the state and acted accordingly. The auditor general’s report was also adopted two days ago.”