Senate Alters Bill On Pensions For Ex-Presidents
By Kunle Aderinokun, Abuja
The National Assembly has tinkered with the bill on the pensions and benefits for former elected Presidents and Vice-Presidents sent to it by Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), THISDAY learnt yesterday.
THISDAY investigation revealed that the “doctored bill” lying before the legislative arm of the government has included in it provisions for remunerations for former heads of state, heads of federal legislative houses and Justices of the Federation. This is against the original bill which provides for former elected Presidents and Vice-Presidents only.
RMAFC had late 2006 sent to the National Assembly, “A Bill for Act to Provide for the Payment of Pensions and Other Benefits to a Person Who has Held Office as an Elected President or Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, which they passed in 2007, but not before including sections that also prescribed remunerations for former Senate Presidents, Speakers and Chief Justice of the Federation.
Realising that the Bill had been “doctored”, former President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to assent to it before his tenure elapsed.
Since any bill not passed or assented to during the tenure of an administration is considered dead, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua dusted the bill and re-presented it to the legislators in 2008.
The original bill, which was an amendment to Section 84(5) the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a copy obtained by THISDAY reads: “There shall be paid pension at the rate equivalent to the Annual Basic salary of the incumbent President or Vice President and other Benefits as provided under the Provision of Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (salaries and allowances etc) Amendment Act 2007 to persons who have held office as elected President or Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Any person duly elected as President or Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall upon the successful completion of his tenure be entitled to Pension for life by the Federal Republic of Nigeria provided that such person was not removed from such office by the process of impeachment or for breach of any provision of the Constitution.”
On the other hand, the “doctored bill” – “A Bill for Act to Provide Remuneration for Former Presidents, Heads of State, Heads of Federal Legislative Houses and Chief Justices of the Federation and Ancillary Matters” – also in possession of THISDAY, has in addition, amongst others, the following:
“Presidents of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (in this Act referred to as “former Senate Presidents”) shall be – paid an up-keep allowance as shall be recommended from time to time by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and approved by the Senate; and entitled to the perquisites of office as shall be recommended by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allo-cation and Fiscal Commission from time to time for approval by the National Assembly.
“Speakers of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (in this Act referred to as “former Speaker”) shall be - paid an up-keep allowance as shall be recommended from time to time by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allo-cation and Fiscal Commission and approved by the Senate; and entitled to the perquisites of office as shall be recommended by Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission from time to time by the National Assembly.”
The latest bill has gone through first and second readings at the Senate, the same contentious sections have made their way back to it.
A highly placed source contended that the original provisions of the bill allow pensions and benefits for former Presidents and Vice-Presidents elected at general election.
According to the source, “RMAFC has a good intention of remunerating past leaders based on the fact they were elected by the general populace. Senate President, his Deputy with the speakers and his deputy were selected by their members.”
The source said for the reason that President's and Vice President's positions are the highest position of authority, former elected Governors, and their deputies were not included as beneficiaries in the scheme, adding that Senate Presidents, their deputies and others in that category, apart from being selected to the position, may vie for higher positions in the country.
“Because a Senate President and the Deputy as well as Speaker could aspire for higher positions, as such it means they would enjoy double pensions if they are included in the bill but there is no higher office a President cannot aspire for,” the source explained.
Chairman of Senate Committee on Information, Senator Ayogu Eze, told THISDAY on phone yesterday that it is true that the bill had been adjusted to include more beneficiaries.
The joint hearing involved the Senate committees on Anti-Corruption, Gas, Foreign Affairs and Judiciary and was presided over by Senator Sola Akinyede, Chairman of the Senate committee on Anti-Corruption.
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