SERAP: Gov Dickson challenged to reject life pension bill for lawmakers

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The governor of Bayelsa state, Seriake Dikcson has been
challenged to reject the proposed life pension bill by the leader of the House
of Assembly, Peter Akpe.

In an open letter to the governor, Socio-Economic Rights and
Accountability Project (SERAP) urged Dickson to “prevail upon the House to
immediately withdraw the self-serving bill.”

The House had last week passed a bill that would grant life
pensions to speakers, deputy speakers and other members.

Under the bill, speakers will go home with N500,000 monthly,
while deputy speakers will receive N200,000. 24 other members will each get
N100,000. The House is seeking life pensions for members similar to those
“applicable to former presidents, vice-presidents, governors and deputy
governors across the country.”

SERAP said: “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.”

In the letter dated 26 April 2019 and signed by SERAP Deputy
Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “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, by passing 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,” SERAP said in its letter.

“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.”

“SERAP notes that Bayelsa State has in recent years received
trillions of Naira from the federation account. Yet, according to the State
Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), over 265,000 Nigerian children lack
access to basic education in the State. The public funds that would be spent to
pay life pensions to the lawmakers could be well used to address the problem of
growing rate of out-of-school children in the state.”

“It is forbidden for any public official including lawmakers
to engage in self-dealing, and place him/herself in a position of conflicting
interests and to hold incompatible functions or illicitly engage in providing
to him/herself emoluments deemed unacceptable, unconstitutional and illegal.”

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