By Laureta Akpan
Information reaching CrossRiverWatch this evening indicate that the Cross River state governor, Senator Liyel Imoke is not happy with the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Larry Odey.
The governor is said to have called the Speaker this evening on the phone to express his displeasure with ongoing attempts by the lawmakers to pass a bill seeking to provide for medical pension of up to 300% of the earnings of each of the lawmakers.
CrossRiverWatch gathered that, if the billed which is now being rushed to ensure passage before the end the present assembly, is passed, each of the 25 members will get more than five hundred thousand naira for medical pension every year.
A highly placed government house source told CrossRiverWatch that “The governor in his telephone chat with the Speaker, expressed his utter dismay and surprise that, even with the information at the disposal of the Speaker as regards the financial constrains that the state is going through, he will still support moves by outgoing lawmakers to overload the overhead burden of the state government. He was really unhappy with the Speaker and made it clear to him that he will not sign such a bill.”
The bill which seeks to provide for medical pension for out going lawmakers is sponsored by Hon. Jake Otu Enyia who doubles as the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation and co-sponsored by Hon. Agbiji Agbiji and others. The lawmakers are reportedly poised to veto the governor if he does not sign the bill.
The bill which was expected to go through second reading today in plenary was however postponed till next Thursday because members present were unable to form a quorum.
Though a copy of the bill was yet to be obtained by CrossRiverWatch till tomorrow, a management source in the Assembly who spoke with our reporter said “The bill if passed will give each outgoing member over five hundred thousand Naira every year as medical pension after leaving office. In the face of dwindling revenues and inability of the state to meet statutory financial obligations, lawmakers are not expected to even think about not to talk of passing a legislation to further put the state in additional financial mess.”
But Hon. Agbiji Agbiji, in a chat with CrossRiverWatch defended the action of the lawmakers and argued that if the Governor and his Deputy, the Chief Judge of the state and other judicial workers all receive pensions on retirement as heads of other arms of government, the legislative arm too was entitled to some form of cushion for its’ exiting members.
According to Hon. Agbiji, “There are three bills that are before us for consideration, that are within first and second reading. One bill is the amendment to the gubernatorial pensions. That is the pension the governor and deputy governor enjoy after the expiration of their tenures. Then, another bill has to do with the establishment and operations of the Assembly Service Commission. Just like you have the Judicial Civil Service Commission and the Civil Service Commission, we don’t have the Assembly Service Commission in Cross River and you know there are three arms of government.
“Then the third one is the one that has to do with the provision of medical allowances, for past House of Assembly members. It is not actually fixed as five hundred thousand as it is been said, it is a draft legislation and there is no such provision as five hundred thousand naira. It is actually supposed to be a percentage of the annual basic salary that should be paid to the member to help support his or her medical expenses after leaving office.
“You will agree that when the governor and the deputy governor leave office, they go with everything that they enjoy when they are in office. Plus domestic staff, security and everything provided for them while in office but for the legislators, nothing!
“It is our opinion that for us who are exiting, we should make provision for ourselves and for those who have even left before us. You see that so many former members die from their illnesses, most times, if they are sick, they have to come back and ask for financial assistance and you know in our politics, once you are not within the sphere of authority or ambit of influence, it is very easy to forget you.”
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