Benue Assembly passes controversial pension bill after getting salary arrears
Benue State House of Assembly on Thursday passed the controversial executive pension bill.
The lawmakers passed the bill after receiving an alert of three out of six months’ salary arrears and payment of the three months’ arrears owed by the state government.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported that the lawmakers suspended sitting following non-payment of six months’ salary arrears and three months’ overhead.
One of the lawmakers who pleaded not to be mentioned had three weeks ago informed our correspondent that the house took the decision to suspend sitting and not to pass the controversial executive bill until their entitlements are paid.
The pension bill is seeking to place ex-governors and their deputies on bogus gratuity, pension, and other benefits.
The bill which received condemnation by some people in the state including the governor-elect, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia, is to provide for the governor a permanent residential accommodation in any place of their choice in the country, make provisions for four new cars every four years for the former governors and two new cars every four years for former deputy governors.
It also provides for six personal staff for the former governors and three for the former deputy governors to be paid for by the state, while it also provides for free medical treatment for the past governors, their spouses and at least four children under 18.
Bend on ensuring the passage of the bill, the outgoing government allegedly conscripted some members of the house to resume sitting while at the same time dispatched thugs to stop those perceived to oppose the bill from having access to the assembly complex.
Having received the alert on Thursday, members were said to have conveyed a plenary session where the bill was passed through with serious adjustments.
The minority leader of the house, Bem Ngutyo told our correspondent that the bill had been passed with ‘some adjustment’.
He said, “Yes the house passed the bill just now but we reduced the contents badly; the four cars to governors were reduced to two, two to deputies reduced to one, the portion to provide accommodation to past governors at any place of their choice was expunged.
“So also the portion of medical trips abroad twice a year was reduced to once.
Asked if the governor had cleared the six months salary arrears and three months’ overhead, Ngutyo said, “We have received an alert of three months salary out of six” adding that the three months’ overhead had also been paid.
Corroborating the submission of the minority leader, Chairman, House Committee on Information, Tertsea Gbisea who confirmed the passage said that the house passed the bill but with ‘extensive changes made’.
Gbisea who did not speak on those portions changes were made said, “Yes, a version of, the Maintenance of Former Elected Governors of Benue State Bill was passed today, extensive changes were made on the version sent by the executive.
“We had in mind the dire financial situation of the state and did the needful. The auditor general report was also adopted two days ago.