THE amended pension bill by the Edo State House of Assembly which proposes to bequeath N200 million and N100 million worth of houses respectively to the immediate past governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu, as well as their predecessors, does not only smack of insensitivity on the part of the legislators, it also reeks of patent cronyism at its worst. The amendment of the previously existing law is a synonym for an upward review of the benefits accruing to the state’s former helmsmen. This is in addition to the full salaries and other perquisites that these former leaders are entitled to.
The perks of the former governors and their deputies, sans the new addition, already constitute a burden on the resources of the state because it is duty bound to cater for most of their needs for as long as they have breath in their nostrils. The state provides cars for them regularly, the state pays for their annual holiday in any part of the world with their spouse as well as four children; the state pays for their medical care anywhere in the world, the state also pays for their domestic staff, among other benefits.
Therefore, proposing this new addition at this austere time when civil servants are lamenting the erosion of the value of their income by inflation and the common people of the state are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet without any intervention by the Assembly to prevail on the executive to cushion the effects of the recession on the people, shows that the legislators, nay the political class, are as distant from the yearnings of the people as the sun is from the earth.
Coming up with this amendment at this time is proof that the political elite are only interested in what benefits them and their friends. As far as they are concerned, the rest of the society can plunge into the nearest lake. Is lawmaking essentially for the benefit of the ruling class? Are the state legislators only to bother about the welfare of members of the political class at the expense of other members of the society? This tendency to place personal interest above that of the rest of the society shows that many of those who occupy leadership positions in the country know next to nothing about the essence of the offices they occupy.
Perhaps the legislators need to be reminded that they were voted into office by the people, not to be subservient to the executive, but to checkmate its excesses as well as make laws for the improvement of the society at large. But a situation in which the legislature that is supposed to put a lid on executive frivolities is the one baiting the executive with indefensible perks is nothing but an outright dereliction of duty. By scaling up the benefits of these former state helmsmen at a time when the rest of the society is trapped in abject poverty and excruciating deprivations, the Edo Assembly has loudly exhibited its insensibility to the plight of the people.
What is the essence of the review of that bill at the moment? What purpose is it supposed to serve? What good will it foster in the state? What changes will it precipitate in the society? Is it the most important thing in the state at the moment? Will it take the state out of its current challenges? Will it improve life and living in the state? What would the state lose if this bill was not passed?
While the contributions of elected officers who served either at the state or the federal level creditably should be reasonably appreciated, we are at pains to come to terms with the fact that former governors who have been found wanting by the laws of the land will benefit from this exercise. For instance, Mr Lucky Igbninedion, the Edo State governor between 1999 and 2007 who was convicted of corrupt practices, will be a beneficiary of the pension package. Similarly, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, who succeeded Igbinedion and was removed from office for electoral malpractice, will also enjoy the provisions of this amendment. What is the justification for allowing those who were found on the wrong side of the law to benefit from the same law?
Lawmaking is supposed to be for the good of the people. We are persuaded that it will be herculean for the Edo Assembly to say in good conscience that this newly amended bill is for the good of the people of the state. Consequently, this piece of legislation from the assembly is both contemptible and condemnable. Therefore, we call on Governor Godwin Obaseki to demonstrate statesmanship and sensitivity to the signs of the times by withholding assent to the bill.