On Friday, May 22, 2020, Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, accented to a bill by the State House of Assembly repealing a law on payment of gratuities and pensions to former Governors of the State, former Deputy Governors, and former Speakers of the State House of Assembly.
Uzodinma while signing the bill into law, said repealing the law became necessary because it is against the 1999 Constitution as amended, which according to him, stipulates that a pensioner must have worked for a minimum of 10 years and must be up to 45 years of age.
“Apart from the inconsistency of such a law to the provisions of the grundnorm, which is the Constitution of 1999 (as amended), this has led for a very long time a precedence that does not encourage diligence and prudence in service delivery.’’ Uzodinma said at the signing of the new law held at Sam Mbakwe Exco Chambers, Government House, Owerri.
Before Governor Uzodinma accented to the bill, the initiator of the bill and Majority Leader, Imo State House of Assembly, Hon Uche Ogbuagu told newsmen that the State lost N1.3 billion annually, paying pensions and gratuities to the former Governors, former Deputy Governors and former Speakers of the State House of Assembly.
Since the law was repealed by the Governor, it has elicited diverse reactions across the State. None of the former Governors have reacted to the repealing of the law. What is contentious and attracted attention is how authentic claims made by the Majority Leader of the State Assembly, that as much as N1.3 billion naria is coughed out from the state treasury annually to pay pensions and other entitlements of former State Governors and others.
All over the world, it is a norm for certain caliber of public office holders to be entitled to some benefits but it becomes worrisome when their jumbo pay cannot be sustained or maintained.
According to records by the National Bureau For Statistics, NBS, States paying former Governors and their deputies jumbo pensions including houses, vehicles, fully-paid vacation, medical insurance, are neck deep into debt.
At a time most States in the country are witnessing economic turbulence because of the coronavirus pandemic which has stunted the growth of the global economy, it is unacceptable if such jumbo pay for former public office holders are continued considering the fact former Governors, their Deputies sometimes move on to the senate or House of Representatives where they are also paid huge amount of money as salaries and other benefits.
Imo State is among States in the federation that are in debt which makes it imperative for belt tightening measures to ensure regular payment of workers salaries and pensions to pensioners in the state.
Therefore if repealing the law on payment of pensions to former Governors in Imo State will guarantee the state government to consistently pay salaries of workers and pensions to pensioners, then it is a welcome development that the law was repealed.