Mr. Bob says the law should be immediately amended
A former senator from Akwa Ibom State, Effiong Bob, has ridiculed Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, for endorsing a new pension law that would enable him pocket over N200 million annually.
Mr. Bob, who is currently the pro-chancellor of the University of Benin, and personal friend to Mr. Akpabio, bared his mind in an open letter.
In the three-page letter, the former lawmaker said Mr. Akpabio’s pension law was replete with “wicked and audacious” provisions that should infuriate any right-thinking member of the public.
“I write to express my utter surprise at the conception, drafting, and passage of the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Bill 2014 which by your consequent assent, has now become law,” Mr. Bob began.
“When news about the envisaged law appeared in the media, I thought it was one of those pull-him-down media speculations sponsored by your political opponents. The reason is that it was completely outrageous in its entirety.
“However, when on Monday May 26, 2014, it was passed into law by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, I was stunned beyond words.”
Mr. Bob expressed surprise at the speed by which the state assembly passed the controversial law, which he said, would further impoverish the people.
He also expressed concern over the failure of the lawmakers to conduct a public hearing to obtain input from Akwa Ibom, whose resources would be used in financing the outrageous law.
Continuing, Mr. Bob wrote, “I am also stupefied by the fact that a bill of such critical nature could be passed into law within less than seven working days of its receipt by the House.
“The bill was drafted and sent by you with a covering letter dated May 15, 2014. It was received by the Acting Clerk of the State House of Assembly on May 19, 2014; and was passed into law for your assent on Monday May 26, 2014. On Wednesday May 28, 2014, you signed it into law. What a historic speed!
“With all sense of humility and gratefulness to God Almighty, having served as a councillor; deputy speaker of the state house of assembly and a two-term senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I am quite familiar with at least the elementary process of passing a bill into law.
“At every level of the legislature, bills of such critical dimensions are usually, without exception, subjected to public hearing and intense debate before passage.
“In this particular case, every process leading to the ultimate passage of that bill by the House was shrouded in ridiculous secrecy. This has raised more haunting questions than answers.”
Mr. Bob said the version sent to the state assembly, “contained wicked and audacious provisions that right-thinking members of the society are still wondering under what influence it was passed by the House.”
He queried the provision of a whooping N130 million annual health benefits for Mr. Akpabio and his deputy on retirement, saying that a total of N1.3 billion would be paid out by the time the state has 10 surviving former governors and deputies.
“What kind of sickness are we envisaging here? This is completely out of harmony with decency. Imagine a situation where we have up to 10 former governors and deputies in the state.
“They will drain the state of a cool N1.3 billion a year. Have you thought of what this amount could do for the State in the areas of industrialization, agricultural development, education, and health and job creation? This is unfair and unacceptable.
“Your Excellency, I want you to understand my position and that of other silent Akwa Ibom people on this issue. Nobody is saying that a former state governor and deputy should not be entitled to certain benefits on leaving office. They are surely entitled to such benefits.
“But such benefits must be reasonable. They must fall within the confines of what the state can afford. What we see here is indecent greed. The tax payers must not be strangulated to satisfy such gluttony.”
Mr. Bob noted that a section-by-section examination of the law has revealed deliberate attempts at draining the state of its financial resources just to satisfy the voracious appetite of a few people.
“It must be understood that while this kind of law already exists in other states of the Federation, the one of Akwa Ibom State is absolutely ludicrous.
“This is a State where more than 65 percent of the people are jobless because there are no industries for people to work; where then is the morality in enacting such a law? Is this another version of uncommon transformation?
“Considering the fact that a governor and his deputy only hold office for a maximum of eight years, it smacks of extreme callousness and even cruelty for them to draw such huge benefits while those who put in 35 years and above in public service wallow in penury.
“Your Excellency, as someone who has always supported, silently and publicly, your effort in fulfilling your mandate of office as provided for in the 1999 Constitution; as someone who was the first person in Akwa Ibom State to publicly endorse your re-election bid even before you made any public move in that regard; my opinion is that this law is inconsistent with the economic realities of Akwa Ibom State.
“It portrays more greed and deprivation than a genuine thank you from the people of the State. The reason for contesting for public office is to serve the people and not to squeeze them dry.”
In conclusion, Mr. Bob told the governor, “This law is a bad law. I am therefore proposing its immediate amendment. Such a process should be subjected to public hearing as obtained in any decent society.”