• Monday, April 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Group urges Otti to give assent to bill seeking to repeal pensions for Governor, Deputy Governor

Otti charges steel firm to be labour-friendly to attract govt’s support

…lauds new law by Abia State House of Assembly

Youth and Student Advocates for Development Initiative (YSAD), a youth-focused civil society group, has urged Governor Alex Otti of Abia State, to assent to the House of Assembly Bill Number 11, known as ‘a Law to repeal the Abia State Governor’s and Deputy Governor’s Pensions Law No 4 of 2001.

The 8th Abia State House of Assembly, Tuesday, March 19, 2024, passed into law HAB 11, seeking to repeal the Abia State Governor’s and Deputy Governor’s Pensions Law No 4 of 2001.

The bill was sponsored by Okoro Uchenna Kalu,
House majority leader, who is also the member representing Arochukwu State Constituency.

YSAD, in a statement, signed by Obinna Nwagbara, its executive director, and made available to BusinessDay, commended the Abia House of Assembly and Okoro Uchenna Kalu, the sponsor of the bill for the feat

They described the bill as a worthy policy intervention from the eighth house, given the outstanding backlog of pension (arrears) that the Abia State government has yet to clear, even though the Governor, so committed to that task, has increasingly sought to rewrite that bitter part of the State’s history from the get-go of his administration.

For a long time now, YSAD has been vocal and critical about the fact that some 22 States (at the subnational level) out of the 36 in the federation have this kind of law in operation.

With this law in place and practice, certain former governors of the state, including those who initiated the ongoing pension crisis, were placed on life support with huge pecuniary benefits at the expense of poor taxpayers, including State workers and teachers whose salaries have been denied for years for no just cause.

Worse still, it did not matter that some of these ex-governors, after 8 years in office, would emerge as senators or ministers where they enjoy plum offices and appurtenances thereof even as the 2001 law kept them on the wage bill of the state.

“The meaning for us, as a group at YSAD is that this law when finally signed into effect, by the governor will reduce recurrent expenditure in 2025 appropriation, then enable the State to cut down on the cost of governance, therefore making more funds available for the execution of critical infrastructural projects and to also reduce budgetary constraints.

“The House, through this, demonstrated empathy and its pro-poor stance on governance. There is no need to sustain this law when pensioners suffer old age infirmities and die unpensioned with their loved ones and survivors unable to access lump-sum death benefits”.

Barely two years ago, old citizens under the aegis of Concerned Abia Pensioners Association took to the streets in a fierce protest against nonpayment of pensions and gratuities after giving of themselves in active years of service.

It was during that protest that it was later gathered that retirees in Abia stopped accessing their gratuity in 2002. But in the intervening years former governors, who served and left, including their deputies, kept receiving their pensions from the State purse.

YSAD believed that this should have appeared, as an executive bill, emanating from the executive, not a private member’s bill.

Regardless, the group called on Governor Alex Otti, who has taken up the challenge to clear all salary arrears outstanding to the credit of active and retired workers, to go one better by asserting the law as no mean reformer.

Financial discipline means that those, who put in their time at their prime to the service of the State receive their entitlements.

YSAD urged other States in the federation to follow suit in the face of hardship and soaring inflation.