Lawyers hail court verdict on pension for political office holders
Some lawyers have hailed the decision of the Appeal Court that condemned the payment of pensions and severance package to political office holders, saying it would curb wastages by the politicians.
A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, Abuja had on May 20, 2019 faulted the payment of either severance allowance, pension or gratuity to political office holders and political appointees, insisting that the practice was morally wrong.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Lanre Ogunlesi described the judgement as unassailable and heading in the right direction. He lamented that such decisions were needed to check the selfishness of the political class.”It is a pity that our politicians are just selfish. Can you imagine someone who served for eight years appropriating to himself fat emoluments as parting money? We need to get it right.”
Also, Lagos-based legal practitioner, Theophilus Akanwa, who agreed with the judgment submitted that Nigerians were yet to really have true representation by virtually all the houses of assembly and the National Assembly. He stressed that rather than think in the direction of having pension, gratuity and severance package, the lawmakers should as a matter of urgency, drastically reduce the huge tax payers’ money they spend.
“The masses of this country are suffering in abject poverty and lack of basic amenities due to bad leadership in this nation. The houses of assembly and indeed the National Assembly have totally abdicated their responsibilities of oversight function. Pensioners who laboured so hard for this nation die as a result of not having their pension paid, yet the lawmakers were elected to represent the masses.
“They work hand in hand with the governors without minding that they are independent of the executive. Budgets are passed without proper protection of the interest of the masses, but their personal interests are well protected,” he pointed out. Akanwa called on all well meaning Nigerians to rise against the attempt by the lawmakers to appropriate state funds for themselves.
Canada-based legal scholar, Solomon Ukhuegbe said “there is nothing wrong in principle for legislators to get severance pay and pension, what is required is more transparency in the finances of the legislature.”
According to him, “Some give up the opportunity to build a career by serving in legislature. If you serve for 20 years, for example, your contemporaries outside the legislature are about retiring and getting pension.
“What should be done is for severance and pension packages to be streamlined with number of years served in the legislature, so those who serve for only one term may get severance package but not a pension. Also, there should be a contributory pension scheme. In that case, every legislator will get a pension but relative to contribution (which is a factor of how many years served).
“In the United States, for example, Congress members get pension. Currently, members of Congress are eligible for a pension dependent on the member’s age at retirement, length of service, and salary. The pension value can be up to 80 percent of the member’s final salary. Currently, Congressional pay is $174,000 per year, which, at an 80-percent rate, equates to a lifelong pension benefit of $139,200. All benefits are taxpayer-funded.”
He stated that the judges’ ventilation of moral outrage against the action beclouded the legal issue (whether or not there was a legal entitlement to the pay, which the court answered in the negative}, adding that the judges should have stopped there.
Citing the case of Bayelsa and Kano, Ukhuegbe said it was only because the legislature was not financially independent, which was why the request for payment was made to the governor. “The National Assembly does not make such requests. It controls its budget, which is a first charge on the revenue of the Federal Government (i.e. statutory transfer),” he declared.
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