Even as Nigerians continue to complain about the earnings of their lawmakers and other public office holders, a recommendation to allow former National Assembly presiding officers enjoy pension for life, has been approved by the state Houses of Assembly as part of the ongoing amendment to the 1999 Constitution, earlier passed by the National Assembly.
Nigeria’s former leaders, including those who came to power through military coups are already enjoying the privilege. Past Chief Justices of the Federation are also beneficiaries.
A total of 33 out of the 36 state legislatures voted in support of the alteration of Section 84 of the Constitution to insert a new subsection 5A to read, “Any person who has held office as President of the Senate, Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall be admitted to pension for life at a rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent President or Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives”.
The law however came with a proviso that “Provided that such a person was not removed from office by the process of impeachment or for breach of any of the provision of this Constitution”.
The law however did not exclude public officials like David Mark, the president of the Nigerian Senate, who, as a military retiree, currently enjoys pension from the government. Nigerian public service rules clearly prohibits public office holders from drawing pension from more than one government source.
Only Edo, Ondo and Osun States legislatures opposed the amendments. All 33 other states backed the proposal, effectively completing the amendment process.
Both chambers of the National Assembly, Senate and the House of Representatives, had in 2014 approved the proposal on pension, alongside those for more than a dozen other subjects, before sending them to the state Houses of Assembly for concurrence or otherwise, in line the provisions of the Constitution. At least 24 states assembly must vote in support for any clause to pass.
The current amendment to the Constitution promulgated by the military administration of Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1999 is the fourth of such exercise.
The Deputy Senate President is statutorily the chairman of the review committee.
According to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, the Senate President takes an annual basic salary of N2, 484,242.00 and allowances totalling N13, 911,758.00, while the Deputy Senate President earns N2, 309,166.75 and allowances totalling N12, 931,333.55.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives earns an annual basic salary of N2, 477,110.00 and allowances running into N9, 784,384.00, while the deputy takes N2, 287,034.25 and N8, 004,280.00, as salary and allowances, respectively.
The amendment, which says the former leaders of the National Assembly will draw the “equivalent of their annual salary”, adds to a growing number of legal provisions assigning lucrative retirement packages for Nigerian public officials after they leave office.
Several Nigerian governors have in the past years voted huge perks and benefits for themselves and their family members, with provisions not just for pensions and gratuities, but for foreign medical treatment for themselves and their spouses, and provisions for state burial when they eventually die.
The state legislatures also adopted the proposal for independent candidacy in future elections with 32 states voting in favour and four opposing. The four states are Kano, Ondo, Rivers and Yobe.
By the voting pattern, Sections 131 and 177 of the Constitution will now be altered in paragraph C by inserting after the last of the word “party” in line 2, the word “or he is an independent candidate”.
Also, 32 state Houses of Assembly voted to split the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. At the state level, the Commissioner of Justice will exist differently from the attorney general.
Accordingly, Sections 150 and 195 shall be altered to separate the two offices.
On citizenship, the legislative houses accepted the insertion of a new section “25A” into the Constitution for anyone born in a state other than his own to enjoy the rights and privileges as indigenes of that particular state.
The section says, (1) “A citizen of Nigeria is an indigene of a particular community of a state in Nigeria if (a) he was born in that state; (b) his parents or grandparents belong to a community indigenous to that state; (c) he has resided in that state continuously for a period of not less than ten years; or (d) being a woman, who is married to an indigene of the community of that state, unless she chooses to retain the indigeneship of her paternal community.”
(2) “A person mentioned in subsection (1) of this section shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges as indigene of that state.”
All the states except Ondo adopted the proposal for the president to deliver an annual state of the nation address at the National Assembly. The amendment says the president will “attend a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year to deliver an address in respect of the state of the nation.”
The report further stated in Section 67 that the president “may attend any joint meeting of the National Assembly, either to deliver an address on national affairs including fiscal measures, or to make such statement on the policy of government as he considers to be of national importance.”
The state legislature also accepted a proposal for the alteration of Section 225 to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister political parties if there is a breach of any of the requirements for registration.
Such parties would only be deregistered if they fail to win presidential, governorship of at least one state, chairmanship of at least one local government/area council or a seat in the national or state assembly election.
All the 36 state legislatures adopted the proposal from the National Assembly that the assent of the president is not required to effect an alteration to the provisions of the constitution.
Thus, Section 9 (4A) of the document will now read “For the purpose of altering the provisions of this Constitution, the assent of the President shall not be required.”
“This would be the last time any sitting president would sign the Constitution as section 9 of the same Constitution has been amended to ensure that after such amendments have been assented to by two-thirds of the country’s state houses of assembly and two chambers of the national assembly, such amendments become law,” Mr. Ekweremadu said.