Pension Bill A Waste That Ortom Has Done Nothing To Deserve – Benue APC, LP

Main opposition parties in Benue State, the All Progressives Congress and the Labour Party have applauded the State House of Assembly for refusing to sign the Executive Pension Bill proposed by Governor Samuel Ortom.

The LP and the APC in separate interviews with Information Nigeria, described the proposed pension bill as a waste of state resources which isn’t in the interest of the people of the state but in the interest of Governor Ortom and other past governors in the state.

They added that Ortom had performed woefully and hasn’t done anything for the state to deserve to be a recipient of such excesses.

Recall that the state’s lawmakers on Thursday, put on hold the approval of the said bill and suspended their plenary.

The lawmakers’ refusal to assent to the bill sent to the house for approval by Ortom, was reportedly over the non-payment of their six months salary arrears and allowances.

The controversial bill which had already passed first reading, seeks to offer former governors of the state permanent accommodation and four new cars every four years.

Additionally, the bill proposes the hiring of six personal staff for former governors and three for former deputy governors, as well as free medical treatment for the former governors, their spouses, and at least four of their children under the age of 18.

Bem Mngutyo, a member of the House, after the suspension of the plenary on Thursday, stated that the decision to put the bill on hold was in light of the unresolved issue of their outstanding salaries and emoluments.

According to him, the house “resolved not to sit until our emoluments and salaries are paid.”

READ MORE: Benue Assembly Refuses To Assent Ortom’s Pension Bill Over Lawmakers’ Unpaid Allowances

The lawmaker further revealed that the governor had reportedly met with the PDP caucus caucus of the House to discuss the matter and promised to settle the arrears of allowance and salaries before his tenure expires on May 29, 2023, using the state’s May federal allocation.

Sharing his thoughts with Information Nigeria, the State’s APC Chairman, Austin Agada commended the state assembly for standing their ground to get their entitlement and ensuring that the interests of the people came first before that of anyone.

“It’s a welcome development anytime any day that the Assembly has woken up from their slumber to say no, the people have to be first. When we said Ortom was owing people salaries for close to eighteen months, they said we were lying and playing politics.

“However, I’m happy today that an arm like the legislative arm of the state government could rise up and say look, because of this and that, we won’t go further with this your pension bill that seems to protect your personal interest, then I think it’s a welcome development because the people can’t continue to be in this kind of suffering.

“Anything that has made them to be conscious of their rights and to stand by the people, for me, is a welcome development. Whether personal or selfish interest, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is the well being of the citizens of Benue State.

Wondering why the governor had to wait till the tail end of his tenure to introduce the bill, Otene said recipients of the bill should be former governors who really deserved it, but not for the likes of Ortom who, according to him, is leaving the state worse than how he met it.

He said, “Certainly, this bill can’t be in the interest of the people of Benue but it’s in the interest of the governor and of course, others that have been governors in the past. But Ortom was there all this while, knowing fully well that one day, he’ll be a former governor.

“He should have even initiated the bill long before now, so that other former governors will benefit from it. It is now that he’s about to leave office that he feels the bill is necessary. All the same, for us, if there’s a bill for those that have performed, they are those that should benefit from it.

“Certainly we would have said it’s a welcome development because we’ve had other former governors like Senator Governor George Akume who had done everything as far as Benue State is concerned in ensuring that their lives are elevated. He did his best in ensuring that there was massive transformation and development in Benue.

“But the likes of Ortom, what will he say he has achieved? Yet he wants to benefit from such a bill, it’s very unfortunate but you can’t separate them and say those that had performed should benefit while those that didn’t perform shouldn’t benefit. If I had what it takes, I’d have said those that had not performed shouldn’t benefit, so that people like Ortom can be found in that section.

On whether the bill will cost the state too much from its coffers, despite salaries being owed by the state government, the state chairman said, “There’s nothing too much for a former governor of a state if he had performed exceedingly well. Like Lagos State today where Bola Tinubu took the state to another level, nothing can be too much for him.”

“But when a governor has not performed, and has left the government of the state worse than how he met it, that’s what we’re saying. You know what it is to be a governor, it’s not easy. But for a governor that has performed, there’s absolutely nothing too much for him.

“However, a governor that hasn’t performed, that has left the state worse than he met it, like what we have in Benue State, definitely he doesn’t deserve it,” he stated further.

In his own submission to Information Nigeria about the development in the House, the State Labour Party Chairman, Comrade Ibrahim Idoko Otene said it was wrong and unfair for outgoing governors to receive pensions, as they had not spent the required number of years to be pensionable, going by the law guiding the civil service.

Comrade Otene said, “These things are mostly politics. Fundamentally, I think there’s a rule in Nigeria that says you have to work for a particular number of years, or attain a particular retirement age. We have a civil service rule that says you have to put in a minimum of ten years in the civil service to be pensionable. Now my question is this. I’m saying this considering the weight of our laws. Do our politicians serve up to ten years in offices to deserve pension?

“If yes, then they deserve it, but if not, I don’t think it’s necessary. Has a governor ever served up to ten years in office? That’s a tale to really consider. It should be based on the law for fairness. If a civil servant has to do a minimum of ten years to guarantee pension, is that the case with our governors? I don’t think so. When we talk about fairness, equity and justice, we need to let it be holistic,” he pointed out.

Otene further lamented the excesses of governments in the country, describing the proposed law as a waste and a show of rascality that is putting the economy in trouble. He further governments in the state to cut down their spending in government.

“If you noticed, our principal, Mr Peter Obi has been speaking concerning that, and that’s where the Labour Party stands. We believe that the excesses of government, the cost of governance is one of our biggest problems in Nigeria, and that is why the Labour Party and Peter Obi are saying that there’s a need to cut excesses in governance.

“You’d remember his statement concerning Lai Mohammed who had to travel to the U.S to declare that His Excellency, Peter Obi had committed treason while Peter Obi was in Onitsha. Obi then concluded by saying that is the rascality in governance that we’re trying to bring to an end in Labour Party.

“We need to end this rascality in government where government excesses are putting our economy in trouble. We need to cut down the cost of governance. One way to do that is to reduce this kind of level of rascality in governance where too much is apportioned to governance which at the end of it, are all wastes.

“Look at how Obi put it, that after assessing the cost implication of what Lai Mohammed did in Washington, that cost was enough to build three blocks of classrooms in his own village. Then, pictures started going viral on the kinds of classes they have in Lai Mohammed’s village, it’s a shame. This is what we should be dealing with.

“I want to appeal to our leaders in governance, I agree that we must give credit to who credit is due, honour to whom honour is due, but they also should rule with conscience and approach governance with the people in mind,” he advised.