It was with gladness that I read that the Akwa-Ibom state legislature repealed the portion of the offensive pension law that specified that ex-governors and deputy governors of the state would be provided annual medical treatment up to N100 million and N50 million respectively. Other provisions of the pension law include a mansion in Uyo or Abuja, a new official car and a utility vehicle once in every four years, a personal aide and provision of adequate security, etc. during the lifetime of the governor, at the expense of the state. The pension law would have made it possible for the governor to draw a pension of about N200 million annually. This is equivalent to the gross annual salary of 925 workers who are paid the minimum wage of N18,000 monthly.
The law also provides a medical allowance not exceeding N12 million per annum for the spouse of a former Governor, provided that such a spouse was married to the Governor at the time he or she was in office.
How come the conscience of the Governor, who introduced the bill, and the legislators who approved the bill, did not find this amount morally objectionable given that about 60% of Nigerians live are poor and subsists on less than $2/day?
Justification offered for the law includes the fact that some others States including Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Gombe have similar laws. Also, the argument has been made that the provision of 100 million Naira health cover sets a ceiling on the limitless amount a governor could have requested for health expenses under the previous version of the law. However, buying insurance with cover up to that amount, with relatively modest premiums, could have easily set such a ceiling.
Repealing the medical insurance cover provision of the law shows that the parties involved have allowed some common sense to prevail. I am sure that this in part due to the level of clamor by Nigerian citizens, organized labor, and civil associations etc. Commendably, even a senator from the state who had supported the governor’s election bid wrote in the newspapers about the absurdity of the law.
We the people, must be encouraged from the victory in this situation, though slight, and must not relinquish or abandon the responsibility to continue to use our voice through various forums to hold our leaders accountable for how they manage our commonwealth.
In the words of activist, Gloria Steinem “Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment itself.” By washing our hands of politics, we also wash our hands of the fact that while political change is not necessarily violent, it is always predicated on pressure.”
Let’s keep up the pressure for accountability by our elected officials.