A life pension bill proposed by Governor Samuel Ortom’s government in Benue State for former governors and deputy governors has been criticised.
This is as the a lawyer identified as, Terhemen Oscar Aorabee-Gagajav, has raised an alarm over the proposed bill, saying it is outrageous, ridiculous and economy-crippling.
The lawyer, who asked that the bill must not be passed into law, noted that it’s implementation would not only cripple the economy of the state but will impoverish workers and other people of the state.
Naija News learnt from Sahara Reporters that Aorabee-Gagajav pointed out that the bill titled ‘A Bill for a Law to make Provisions for the Maintenance of Former Governors of the State and their Deputies and for Other Matters Connected Thereto’, has been presented to the Benue State House of Assembly by the outgoing governor.
Giving a breakdown of the bill, he explained that Section 1 of the bill established the title of the Bill and intended for it to have a retroactive effect, adding that it is expected to take effect from 1999 so that it will cover former governors and their deputies including Senator George Akume and the late Ogiri Ajene; Senator Gabriel Suswam and Steven Lawani; Dr. Samuel Ortom and Engr. Benson Abounu.
The Benue lawyer advanced that “Section 2(a)(i) makes provision for the payment to the former governors of a monthly ‘stipend’ equivalent to the ‘the salary’ of a sitting/incumbent governor
“Section 2(a)(ii) makes provision for the payment to all former deputy governors of a monthly ‘stipend’, equivalent to the ‘the salary’ of a sitting/incumbent deputy governor.
“Section 2(b) provides for the building of a permanent residential accommodation in any town ‘of their choice’ by the State in Nigeria.
“Sections 2(c) and (h) provide for the provisions of 4 new cars every 4 years for the former governors and 2 new cars every 4 years for the former deputy governors whose cars shall be serviced and maintained at the expense of the State.
“Section 2(d) and (e) provide for 6 personal staff for the former governors and 3 for the former deputy governors to be paid for by the State.
“Section 2(f) provides for 24 hours security surveillance and guard for all former governors and their deputies at their direction.
“Section 2(g) provides for free medical treatment for them, their spouses and at least 4 children under the age of 18.
“Section 3 provides that all the above expenses can be monetized or cashed out!
“Section 4 entitled former governors to 2 vacations abroad annually and the former deputy governor to 1 vacation abroad.”
Aorabee-Gagajav further bemoaned that what is worrisome is that the entitlements in the bill are for life, adding that the expenses from the bill has been charged on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state (meaning that they are on First Line Charge) and are to take priority against other expenses like salaries, pensions and gratuity of the citizen.
He added that what is more is that all sentiments except from vacations can be converted into cash for them, while noting that “Section 1 makes this Bill, when passed into Law, to have retroactive effect. This means that it will be backdated to cover all governors and their deputies democratically elected since 1999.
“It is important to note that if allowed to be passed, the state will be owing Governors Akume and Suswan with their Deputies all the entitlements provided for in the BILL/LAW.
“Again, the monthly stipends to be paid to the beneficiaries, apart from being for life and backdated, calculated and monetized, are capable of totally crippling the State Treasury and Economy
“Remember that the law does not say that the stipend should be equivalent to the “BASIC SALARY” of a sitting governor but the “SALARY,” and my research shows that the monthly basic salary of a sitting governor is N2,223,794 while the monthly salary of a sitting governor, comprising allowances, etc., is N11,540,896.
“This means that Sen. George Akume alone will be entitled to N138,490,752 per annum from the time he left office till his death. Same for Senator Suswam and Gov. Ortom and the governors after them.
“Multiply N138,490,752 x 3 former governors in a year alone, you are going to be spending N657,276,456 on Ortom, Akume and Suswam alone in 2024 as monthly stipends. (We have not considered the backlog for Akume and Suswam.
“The three deputies will take home N440,631,348 per annum as monthly stipends. Add N657,276,456 to N440,631,348 for the governors and their deputies and you have N1, 097,907, 804. [These are the stipends for the 3 sets of governors and their deputies for one year alone]
“The governors and their deputies are entitled to 6 vehicles every four years. Let us assume that each vehicle costs N70, 000,000.00 (I am assuming this based on my findings on Jiji that a Toyota Landcruiser Prado Jeep, 2022 model costs about that much). If you multiply that sum for 6 cars, you will have N420,000,000.00 spent on them every 4 years. Wewill resist the urge to go on calculating the cost of service of these beasts for every year. Mind you that the Law does not place a ceiling on the cost of the cars
“Note also, the Bill does not stipulate that the old four-year-old cars should be returned to the State Pool in exchange for the new cars.
“Next is the provision for the building of residential accommodations of no prescribed limit in value in any Town of their choice in Nigeria. I assume that nobody would want to have a house built for that purpose in Makurdi, Gbajimba, Anyiin or Wannune. They would rather prefer to have a house in Banana Island or Asokoro in Abuja where the cost of buying plain land alone will cost hundreds of millions and building could cost a billion or more.
“What about the medical expenses for them, their spouses and AT LEAST 4 children irrespective of whether the children are biological or not. Once a child reaches the age of 18, he or she could easily be replaced by another “child”. Again the medical expenses are not limited in value or within Nigeria.
“Do we still need to talk about vacations ABROAD? What about the salaries of the 6 and 3 personal staff for life for governors and their deputies?
“Incidentally, the law, which is a state law that does not override federal laws, provides that a beneficiary shall not take any other entitlement from the State or the Federation, but is silent on refund or penalty for breach of section 5 of the Law.
“Now you see why this pension scam should not be allowed to be signed into law because it will cripple our economy once implemented.”