A new controversy has emerged in the public discourse, as a bill, seeking to amend the law on pension for former governors and their deputies in Enugu State come to the limelight.
Enugu is said to be following a path which other Nigerian states have pulled back from. Kwara, Zamfara, and Imo are among the states that have cancelled pensions for their former governors.
TOS News gathered that, the amendment, if passed into law, would guarantee life pension for former governor and their deputies, including their spouses.
Recalled last year November, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, submitted a bill to the Lagos House of Assembly for the repeal of a 2007 law which provides for pension for former governors and their deputies.
Mr Sanwo-Olu said he took the initiative in order to keep “the costs of governance low and to signal selflessness in public service.”
The Enugu bill, which has passed first reading in the House of Assembly, has been described as “obnoxious, repugnant and repressive” by a chieftain of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-east state.
Former spokesperson for the APC in the South-east zone, Hycienth Ngwu said “Should the bill be passed and assented to, there would come a time that after the payment of this category of pensioners, there would be little or nothing for other government services.
“This idea is very obnoxious, repugnant and repressive. We all must stand up and say no to its passage. Is Enugu state no longer in the hands of God?”
Mr Ngwu noted that such laws were currently being abrogated and jettisoned in other states where they existed across the federation.
The governor should please suggest to the leadership of the house of assembly to stop forthwith the debate on this bill,” he added.
Also, a group, Save Enugu Group, has given the House a 21-days ultimatum to “kill” the controversial bill or be ready for a mass protest by the Enugu residents.
The group, in a statement by its Coordinator, Willy Ezugwu, said it will mobilise citizens, civil society groups, and labour unions for a protest against the assembly, if the lawmakers continue to debate the controversial bill.
“It will be a betrayal of the trust the people bestowed in their representatives serving as lawmakers, for the state Assembly to think of passing such an outdated bill.
“It is shocking that while a state, with high internally generated revenue that runs into billions (of naira) monthly, like Lagos, has abolished pensions for former governors, the Enugu State House of Assembly is planning to deplete the meager IGR generated in Enugu State on account of pensions for political office holders,” the group said.
However, the Leader of the Enugu House of Assembly, Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, in his reaction to the controversy over the bill, said in a statement on Monday that the assembly was only carrying out its constitutional mandate.
He said the House “would not do anything that would work against the desire and wish of the people.”
“Enugu State House of Assembly remains committed to the discharge of its duties. The House is also sensitive to the feelings of our people and therefore appreciates the feedback and reactions from our Constituents and the public. This is the beauty of democracy and as representatives, we will not disappoint our people.
Enugu State of Assembly therefore assures our people that the House will follow due process and do the needful during the next plenary,” Mr Ezeugwu said in the statement.
The lawmaker said the Enugu State Gubernatorial Pensions Law was first enacted in 2007 and subsequently amended in 2017.