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Akpabio asks lawmakers to reverse ex-govs' pension law

Published by Tribune on Wed, 04 Jun 2014

AKWA Ibom State governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has sent a bill to the state House of Assembly, requesting that the section of the Pension Act which pegged the amount former governors and deputies could spend annually on medical bills to N100 million and N50 million respectively be expunged and reverted to status quo.This, he said, was done after due consideration of the stance of the opposition in misinforming members of the public.'It is my hope that with the excision of these sections from the amendment, the agents of falsehood would lift their siege on truth and not distract the good people of this state from the task of the uncommon transformation of our dear state.'Let them remember that I am not a governorship candidate. Instead of firing brickbats at me, let them tell the good people of Akwa Ibom State their plans for the state,' Akpabio said.The governor, who disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Lagos, on Tuesday, said 'because of the sponsored media comments and misinformation by few opposition elements in the state, and because this government is a product of the people, we have, as a government, decided to forward a request to the House of Assembly that those areas which the opposition have capitalised upon to misinform the people be expunged and the former law that had been in existence be made to remain.'According to Akpabio, 'in the last few weeks, truth has come under siege by agents of falsehood in Akwa Ibom State. The good people of the state have been unfortunately subjected to the most unkind political gimmick in the history of our state over the amendment of a 16-year-old law.'This tidal wave of propaganda, misinformation, lies, falsehood, mischief and cynicism, we fear, may already have sucked in some unsuspecting members of the public, who lack the ability to appreciate the salient points of this law and its ennobling attributes.'Speaking further, Akpabio noted that 'The governors and deputy governors pension law was first enacted in 1998 as the Special Grant (Former Chief Executives) Edict. It was amended in 1999 by the Special Grant (Former Chief Executives (Amendment) Edict of 1999) and was retained in Cap. 122 Laws of Akwa Ibom State 2000. It was amended in 2002 by the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law 2002, which was later repealed by the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law 2006 assented to by my predecessor in office on April 26, 2007.'The governor said 'in the course of its implementation, we noticed a lacuna in the 2007 law, particularly on account of its open-endedness in the provisions relating to the medical expenses and provision of funds for the employment of domestic staff for former governors and deputy governors and, working with the House of Assembly, we sought to protect the law from abuse by putting a ceiling on the medical expenses for the treatment of these senior citizens of Akwa Ibom State.'The ceiling, which was pegged at N100 million per annum for former governors and N50 million per annum for former deputy governors, was never meant to be given either in part or in whole to anybody at anytime for any reason. It was meant to be paid to health institutions involved in the treatment of the former governors or former deputy governors and their spouses.'It was, therefore, deliberate falsehood and organised misinformation to claim that the said money will be paid to former governors or deputy governors every year. This has never been the practice and the amendment has added nothing to give credence to this obviously politicised orchestration.'Former governors and deputy governors and their spouses who were not sick, Akpabio noted, 'were not to receive a dime from the fund. These sums, which were for the governors and the deputy governor's medical treatment, suffered the most bashing from a mischievous vocal minority who sought to reap political capital out of it. In their frenzied desperation, they even claimed that the law was made for my personal benefit. They lost sight of the fact that I am not among the beneficiaries, as I am not on pension,' he noted.He noted further that 'the other sickening claim was that we excluded some categories of eligible former deputy governors and governors. This is absolutely incorrect.'Since the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law 2006 referred to above, a new eligibility provision beyond just being a former governor or deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State origin was introduced by the last administration, whereby certain persons who served in these two offices and who would otherwise have benefited from the pension were excluded on account of resignation, otherwise than on health grounds, impeachment or holding office for a period less than three years.'Section 3 of the 2006 version of the law attests to this, and this provision, retained in Section 3 of the 2014 version of the law has attracted unsavory comments as though it was a new provision just inserted.'Akpabio condemned the media attack on the members of the Assembly, saying: 'I reject in its entirety the unwarranted condemnation of this altruistic amendment. I am deeply saddened by the vilification of the members of the House of Assembly for undertaking a course of action, which we, as a state, should applaud.
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