By Yusufu Shehu Usman
There has been and still is, a sustained public outcry, resentment and condemnation across the nation over the propriety or otherwise, of the laws enacted by many state houses of Assembly granting the right to lifetime pension for past governors, deputy governors and in some states , even the presiding officers and members of the Assembly
I have in many previous write ups expressed my opinion on this topical issue, clearly taking the stand of a staunched opposition
It is still my view that the law is retrogressive, oppressive and not in the best interest of the people.
I profferred many reasons to justify my stand of opposition to the law in my previous write ups
My argument is not on the legality or constitutionality of the law.as many would want to think
It is concerned that the state houses of Assembly may have the legal vires to enact such laws within the competence of their legislative powers
However, I will here make the argument that under the 1999 constitution ( as amended), the right or power of any legislature to enact any law at all, is subject to the condition that such law if enacted, will be in the interest of peace and good governance of the state or the nation as the case may be
The controversial pension law in discourse may be within the competence of the state to enact, but, is it in the interest of peace or good governance of the state?
How will such a law promote peace or engender good governance when it is based on injustice?
How will such a law aid the economic or social development of the states when it depletes in a very significant way, the financial resources of the states?
What benefit will the people derive from paying such humongous amount of state resources to public officers who had more than their fair shares of compensation while in office?
Ironically, some of the past governors or their deputies benefitting from this law, have been successfully prosecuted and jailed for looting state resources and other financial crimes against the resources of the states from which they are drawing the pension and curiously, the law does not prevent them from “earning’ such “entitlement” even after conviction nor does the law provide any circumstances under which the recipient of such pension could legally lose the right to it.
A cursory examination of the laws on this issue as enacted by the various Houses of Assembly exposes many huge gaffes and inelegance in the way they were drafted; raising the genuine suspicion that they were cooked up and dished in a hurry and manifestly under pressure mounted on the Assemblies by the governors who master minded them at the tail end of their tenures.
The essence of any law in a democratic society is to serve the interest of the people and not to work against it
On this score, the pension laws that confer the entitlement on past governors to draw life time pension is a bad law which must be repealed and the so called entitlements be extinguished forthwith, in the overall interest of peace and good governance of the states
I don’t think it will serve any useful purpose going to the court to declare such laws illegal or unconstitutional. The chances of getting this through may at best be a fifty – fifty scenario Rather, the advocacy in opposition to this apparently legal but clearly and patently immoral and oppressive law, will be more effective if predicated on sensitisation of the public for the people to appreciate how damaging such laws are to the economies of the states that enacted them.
The public should mount sustained pressure on the respective Assemblies to repeal such or amend such obnoxious laws as the Zamfara state House of Assembly recently and rightly did.
It is the responsibility of the civil Society groups and other public spirited individuals as the vanguards and conscience of the masses to champion this cause on behalf of the people to shoot down and remove this law from our statute books.