Akwa Ibom Assembly Passes Gov. Akpabio’s N200m Scandalous Pension Law
Despite public outcry and barrage of criticism across the country, the rubber stamp Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on Monday passed a bill, approving a whooping N200 million annual pay for Godswill Akpabio; among other perks.
The assembly also approved the construction of a mansion which would serve as Mr. Akpabio’s retirement home; in addition to brand new cars, befitting furniture and other luxuries, for the rest of his life.
PREMIUM TIMES had exclusively reported on the controversial bill on Thursday just as it was presented for first reading in the rubber stamp Assembly, which has a history of never holding the state’s profligate governor to account.
Mr. Akpabio had forwarded the bill known as Akwa Ibom State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Bill, 2014, to the assembly through a letter dated May 15.
To underscore the urgency of the proposed law, the Governor had indicated that he wanted it passed hurriedly so it could come into force on June 1.
However, the bill was received by the Acting Clerk of the assembly, Mandu Umoren, on May 19, but PREMIUM TIMES learnt it was locked in a safe on the instruction of the Speaker, Samuel Ikon.
After a prolonged executive session on Thursday, the lawmakers came out and put the bill through first and second reading just as Mr. Akpabio directed.
While labour and civil society groups mobilised their members for a showdown with both the governor and the state lawmakers, the assembly on Monday sat in its so-called Committee of the Whole and considered the bill, clause by clause.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that immediately the proposed law scaled through the Committee of the whole, the assembly reverted to plenary and adopted the report of the Committee.
The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, reported that the motion for the bill to be read the third time was moved and seconded by Deputy House Leader, Ekaete Okon and Aniekan Akpan, a member from Ukanafun state constituency respectively.
NAN also reported that immediately after passage, the leadership of the House directed the clerk of the assembly to forward a clean copy of the bill to Mr. Akpabio for assent.
Under the new law, Mr. Akpabio and former democratically elected governors of the state and their deputies as well as indigenes of the state who served in similar positions in Cross River State, will pocket several millions in monthly retirement perks.
Based on Section 1(1) of the law, “An indigene of the state who has held office as a democratically elected governor or deputy governor of former Cross River State and a person who has held office as a democratically elected governor or deputy governor of the state shall when he ceases to hold office be entitled,” to the new perks.
Although similar laws have been passed by many Nigerian governors including those of Lagos, Rivers, Bauchi and Benue states, among others, Mr. Akpabio’s version is clearly the most ludicrous.
Under it, Mr. Akpabio and others listed in Section 1(1) are entitled to a monthly pension for life at the rate equivalent to his current salary.
Similarly, the serving deputy governor, Valerie Ebe, is entitled to a monthly pension for life at the rate of her current salary.
Mr. Akpabio and his deputy; Mrs. Ebe will therefore pocket a total of N2, 223, 705. 00; and N2, 112, 215, 00 respectively as monthly and a total of N26, 684, 460,00 and N25, 346, 580 respectively as pension, per annum.
This is based on approved remuneration package for state executive and local government executives by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC.
The governor is also entitled to a new official car and a utility vehicle once every four years, one personal aide and the provision of adequate security for his person during his lifetime at the expense of the state government.
Akwa Ibom taxpayers are also expected to provide an amount not exceeding N5 million or an equivalent of $50,000.00 monthly for Mr. Akpabio to engage the services of a cook, chauffeurs and security guards.
This provision is in contrast with Section 1(b) of the bill, which indicates that security shall be provided to former governors during their lifetime at the expense of the government.
However, the deputy governor is entitled to N2million naira or an equivalent of $20,000.00 monthly allowance to hire cooks, chauffeurs and security guards.
Mr. Akpabio and his spouse are to also access free medical services at a sum not exceeding N100 million or an equivalent of $600,000.00, while the deputy and her spouse will pocket N30 million or an equivalent of $200,000.00, annually.
Based on budget figures from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHDA, and the Millennium Development Goal(s), MDG, the amounts set aside for the two government functionaries to access medical services could build and equip two state-of-the-art health centres and two blocks of classrooms in the state.
Section 1(e, f, g, h, I j) of the bill wants Mr. Akpabio and other past governors entitled to a “Provision of a befitting house not below a 5-bedroom maisonette in either the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja or Akwa Ibom State for the Governor and a yearly accommodation allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary for the deputy governor; (300 percent of the deputy governor’s basic salary is N6, 336,645).
“Provision of furniture allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary once in every four years; (A total of N6, 671,115 for the governor and N6, 336,645 for the deputy)
“Provision of yearly maintenance and fueling of vehicle allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary; (A total of N6, 671,115 for the governor and N6, 336,645 for the deputy)
“Provision of severance gratuity allowance of 300 percent of annual basic salary as at the time the officer leaves office; (Another N6, 671,115 for the governor and N6, 336,645 for the deputy)
“Provision of yearly utility allowance of 100 percent of annual salary; (with the governor taking N2, 223,705 while his deputy takes N2, 112, 215)
“And provision of entertainment allowance of 100 percent of annual basic salary; (Another N2, 223,705 for the governor and N2, 112, 215 for the deputy).”
According to Section 2 of the proposed law, a former governor or deputy who received severance gratuity under Akwa Ibom State Public and Political Office Holders (Remuneration) Law, 2000 is not eligible for any other severance pay.
This means that former Governor Attah will enjoy the sumptuous retirement perks but will not be entitled to severance pay since they had been paid based on the provisions of the 2000 law.
Where a former governor or deputy governor dies, the law provides that the state government makes adequate arrangement and bear the financial responsibility for the burial.
The government is also expected to pay a condolence allowance of a sum equivalent to the annual basic salary of an incumbent to the next of kin.
One surviving spouse of the governor is entitled to a medical allowance not exceeding N12 million per annum provided such spouse was married to the governor at the time he or she was in office or if a wife; had served as First Lady.
Unless on health grounds, a former governor or deputy who resigned his office, or impeached or who had not held office for a period of three years or more, is not entitled to benefit from the provision of the new law.
With this provision, Mr. Akpabio’s estranged friend and the former Deputy Governor, Nsima Ekere, will not be eligible to enjoy the lavish perks.