Tension in Bayelsa over Life Pension for Lawmakers

There’s a brewing crisis in Bayelsa State over a bill passed by the House of Assembly approving life pension for all past and current members of the legislature.

The House of Assembly had sparked outrage last Wednesday when it hurriedly passed the bill sponsored by the Leader of the House, Peter Akpe.

The bill approved N500, 000 post-service monthly pension to a speaker of the assembly, while a deputy speaker will receive N200, 000 and a member N100, 000.

Though stakeholders in the state, including civil society organisations and political parties are preparing to protest, sources say Governor Seriake Dickson may assent to the bill very soon, not minding the protest from the people of the state, Guardian writes.

According to the source, Governor Dickson may have been the one who sponsored the bill to assuage the bitter feelings of some party members, including the current Speaker, Benson Konbewie, and Peter Akpe, who lost out in the last election.

However, civil society organisations and the opposition APC are not relenting in their bid to stop the bill with a planned massive but peaceful protest in the state capital, beginning from today.

According to the chairman of the state Civil Liberty Organization (CLO), Nengi James, the bill will not hold as it is against the collective wish of the people.

He described it as draconian, murderous and of no public interest “and so will be resisted not only through public protest but through intellectual discourse and other means possible.”

A former secretary of the CLO and coordinator of the planned protest, Morris Alagoa, said the action was necessary to tell the government that all was not well with the bill.

“Bayelsans of different walks of life have been venting their disapproval and anger at the action of the lawmakers since the bill was passed. And the condemnation has been total. Bayelsans will march in unison on the streets and roads of Yenagoa against the obnoxious and anti-people bill.

“The electorate are the employers and that is why provision for recall is made in the electoral laws. The coalition does not want any political colouration as far as this is concerned, it is just Bayelsa people rising for Bayelsa.”

Some APC faithful are also planning their own protest on the streets of Yenagoa today, and they say it would be “massive and total”.

Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to Governor Dickson, urging him to reject the proposed life pension bill.

The group also asked the governor to use his office as the “trustee of the state’s resources and consistent with your constitutional oath of office, to prevail upon the House to immediately withdraw the self-serving bill.”

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