By Kayode Olaitan
In recent times, some state houses of assembly moved for the process of enacting legislation to provide monthly life pensions for legislators.
Houses of Assembly in Kano State and Bayelsa have even passed a bill to that effect and the bills are awaiting governors’ assent.
Bayelsa House of Assembly proposes N500, 000 monthly pension to the speakers of the assembly, deputy speakers; N200, 000 each and members N100, 000 each, although Gov. Seriake Dickson of the state has yet to assent to the bill.
Kano State House of Assembly has similar bill awaiting Gov. Abdulahi Ganduje’ assent, while Ekiti State House of Assembly is reported to have been working in that regard.
Although none of the state governors has approved the bill, the proposed law continues to attract reactions from the public.
A large segment of the public notes that any push to make the bill for life pension for political office holders will prompt other states and Federal Government to do same to the detriment of the masses.
Sesugh Akume, a stalwart of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, says it is inappropriate for some political office holders to institute a pension scheme for themselves after leaving office.
He explains that political positions ought to be a privilege and opportunity to serve the people and not as a career one can retire with a pension.
“The idea of severance packages and life pensions for elected officials is wrong and without merit,’’ he observes.
In his view, Prof. AbdulGafar ljaiya, an economist, says paying life pension to political office holders will cripple the anti-corruption campaign of the present administration.
Ijaiya, from University of Ilorin, insists that political office holders, irrespective of years they occupy offices, do not qualify for pensions under the constitution.
“The political office holders taking pensions are thieves and corrupt officers who are retarding the nation’s economic growth and development,’’ he says.
Ijaiya is of the opinion that majority of the politicians has retired from their primary job where they draw pensions.
Similarly, Adetunji Adepeju and Samson Olalere, financial experts, argue that granting life pension to political office holders will put undue pressure on the economy.
“Life pension for political office holders in Nigeria is not needed, especially if you look at the executive.
“The maximum time you can spend in office is eight years, do you want to compare that with civil servants some of who spend 35 years in the course of their career.
“The economic realities in Nigeria cannot support such idea of life pension,’’ Olalere says.
Adepeju says “rather than take pension from government coffers after leaving office, let political office holders engage in pension scheme and draw from their monthly income.’’
However, Adekunle Akinpelu, the Branch Manager of Leadway Assurance Company in Ibadan, observes that political office holder can also benefit from contributory pension scheme if while in office they sign up with pension fund administrators.
But, Olusegun Abatan, the Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners in Oyo, insists that life pensions for political office holders are immoral and ungodly.
“How can a politician that serves for four years want to get life pension when a civil servant that works for 35 years are owed 60 months of unpaid pension arrears,’’ Abatan asks.
In his view, Chief Raphael Adetuwo, the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners in Ondo advises that government should rather empower the Revenue Mobilisations, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to place all political office holders in the country on the same salary scale as civil servants.
He says: “The humongous salaries and allowances of public office holders, especially senators and House of Representatives members need to be reviewed.
“How can these people be collecting such huge money in a country where 80 per cent of the population are battling to meet their daily need?’’
Obadele Meroyi, a salary Grade Level 15 civil servant at the Okitipupa Local Government Council observes that “most of the political office holders who possess mere school certificate, are collecting salaries, allowances and packages far better than a professor and a salary Grade Level 17 civil servant.
“Giving them life pension automatically means legalising corruption and paying people who are doing absolutely nothing more than those doing the real job’’, he observes.
However, Assemblyman Tunbosun Oyintiloye of the Osun House of Assembly notes that before the bill for life pension for political office holders can be passed, it is necessary to find out what are the best international practices in developed democracies.
According to the lawmaker, such law might be a welcome development to the beneficiaries but there is need to be cautious of what its impact will be on the economy.
But Prof. Olajire Bamisaye, the Head of Political Science Department, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, says placing political office holders on life pension will have a drag on the national economy.
Ibrahim Ngaski, Chief Executive Officer, Active Support for Rural People Initiative, a non-governmental organisation in Kebbi, explains that “the implication of approving pension for politicians is that the funds meant to develop rural communities will be diverted to their pension payment.
“Rather than clamour for undeserved pension, political office holders should help to sanitise existing pension schemes so that contributors will be able to access their money immediately after retirement.’’
Ali Sani, a civil servant in Kano, warns that any attempt to introduce life pension for political office holders in the state will be resisted, while Hassan Aminu, a civil servant in Kano, advises Nigerians to move against the plan.
Yahaya Abdulkarim, former Governor of old Sokoto recalls that government funds are meant for development and ought to be channelled through proper ways that will facilitate development in all sectors not on pensions for politicians.
In his view, Dr Suleiman Lawal, a lecturer at Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, observes that any attempt to implement pension for politicians is injustice and will end up creating serious financial crisis in the affected states.
Further to this, Centre for Change Initiative, a civil society organisation, describes the proposed life pensions for political office holders as an imposition of the burden of their lifetime survival on innocent taxpayers.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, the president of the group, insists that such pensions for lawmakers will take a toll on the welfare of the people.
Expressing concern on the development, Mr Laide Bakare, Chairman, Lagos Civil Service Union, advises that proposed laws in favour of pension for politicians ought to be discouraged.
“Whoever has served the people should leave honourably and go back to his job or other jobs; serving Nigeria for eight years and demanding a life pension is highly insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.
“Political office holders such as governors are contracted to do their assignments through elections and so, they should not enjoy pensions like regular civil servants,’’ he says.
Also, Takor Ivor, Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, observes that the proposed life pension for political office holders is inappropriate.
He calls on the legislators at the federal and state levels to rather propose bills that can advance the country’s socio-economic development.
The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Lagos State Chapter, as well, calls on the public to rise up against the campaign for life pension for politicians.
“In any state where this is passed into law, the people of that state should rise and protest and the entire Nigerians masses should rise against such; it is a scam of the highest order.
Irrespective of the critics’ argument, concerned Nigerians observe that question as to whether or not life pensions should be granted to politicians is still being discussed among stakeholders in the South-South geopolitical zone of the country.
Dr Peter Uwem, a lecturer in the Department of Economics, University of Calabar, therefore, calls on state governors in Nigeria to refuse assent to any bill on life pension for politicians initiated by lawmakers.
“How can they ever imagine a life pension for themselves when some states cannot afford to clear the meagre amount of pensions and gratuities owed their civil servants?
“Any state governor that approves life pension for lawmakers is calling for crisis because what these politicians earn while in office is enough to take care of them.
“Some of them spend 12 years with jumbo allowances throughout, why then should they still be asking for life pension,’’ he asks.
“I see no reason why politicians who serve for a short period of time should be given life pension when compared to civil servants.
“Government should make political offices, especially the legislature to be a part time, this would be the best for our growing political nation, Mrs Esther Okon, a civil servant in Cross River, also observes.
Similarly, a pension fund manager, pleading anonymity, expresses dissatisfaction over moves by some legislators to make laws allowing political office holders in Nigeria to be entitled to life pensions.
He describes the proposal as obnoxious, noting that such pension bills, especially the one recently moved by legislators in Bayelsa, if passed into law, will further drain the country of its scarce resources.
A pensioner, Forsebry Ere, observes that the move by the Bayelsa lawmakers to have life pension is uncalled for.
“The first thing to consider is that political office is not the regular 35-year civil service job or attaining 60 years of age in service before retirement.
“What should bother the lawmakers ought to be embarking on developmental projects such as primary healthcare and improvement on public schools, among others,’’ Ere says.
In his opinion, Muhammad Ningi, a civil servant in Bauchi, explains that although the constitution mandated politicians to make laws, moving for life pension for political office holders is unpatriotic.
Instead of pushing for life pension for politicians, a pensioner in Yola, Bello Joseph, advises politicians, as representative of the people, to impress it on government at all levels to settle the entitlements of pensioners.
However, Malam Muhammad Barau, retired staff of Dutse Local Government Education Department, has a different opinion.
“It is ideal to grant life pension to former political office holders because they always look bad after leaving office.
“Most of them look wretched, sympathetic and very indigent after their tenure, therefore, placing them on life pension is not a bad idea,’’ he suggests.
Sharing Barau’s opinion, Alhaji Adamu Da’u, an aide to Jigawa governor says: “In my personal opinion, it is better for these things to be debated at a national level.
“States have different capacities, some states have more unpaid salaries’ some states are buoyant than others, so it is going to be difficult for you to have one decision.
“I think, it is something that deserves a national debate, so that people could see; because, sometimes, when you are doing something, you don’t understand the implications until it is exposed to everybody and people are able to contribute,’’ he observes.
In spite of the arguments for or against granting life pension to politicians, Dr Abel Afolayan, President, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, insists that the call is self centered and self-serving