The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has told Seriake Dickson, governor of Bayelsa state, to reject the proposed life pension bill for lawmakers in the state.
In an open letter to the governor, the group pleaded that he uses his “good offices as trustee of the state’s resources, and consistent with your constitutional oath of office, to reject the proposed life pension bill by the leader of the House of Assembly Peter Akpe, and to prevail upon the House to immediately withdraw the self-serving bill.”
Last week, the house had passed a bill that would grant life pensions to speakers, deputy speakers and other members.
Under the bill, which was proposed by Akpe, former speakers will go home with N500,000 monthly, while ex-deputy speakers will receive N200,000. Twenty-four other former members are also expected to get N100,000 monthly.
The house also wants life pensions for members similar to those “applicable to former presidents, vice-presidents, governors and deputy governors across the country.”
But in the letter dated April 26, 2019, and signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP deputy director, the human rights group vowed to “institute legal proceedings to challenge the legality of the legislation” should the governor grants his “assent to the bill as proposed.”
“Public officials have a legal commitment to discharge a public duty truthfully and faithfully. Should you assent to the bill as proposed, SERAP will institute legal proceedings to challenge the legality of the legislation and ensure full compliance with constitutional provisions and Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations,” the letter read.
“The bill amounts to an incorrect and improper performance of public functions. It’s clearly an abuse of legislative functions by the lawmakers. Rather than sponsoring bills that would improve access of children in Bayelsa to quality education, the lawmakers are taking advantage of their entrusted public positions to propose a bill to collect large severance benefits.
“The lawmakers are clearly the major beneficiaries under the proposed legislation. Therefore, bypassing the life pension bill, the lawmakers of Bayelsa State House of Assembly have violated the constitutional and international prohibitions on conflicts of interest.
“The people of Bayelsa would expect you, as their governor, to use your entrusted public office to act in the public interest, including by rejecting the life pension bill and prevailing upon the House of Assembly to immediately drop the bill.
“Conflicts of interest, as well as perceptions of such conflicts, would undermine public confidence in the integrity and honesty of not only the Bayelsa State House of Assembly but also your government if urgent action is not taken to prevail upon the House to drop the outrageous bill.”