At the moment, when parliamentarians leave the National Assembly, they just get one-off payments but at a-two day retreat on constitution review organised by the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review in Lagos, it has been suggested that they get more. Proposals being discussed include allowing the senate president, his deputy, the speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy to enjoy life pensions.
Deputy senate president Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Stella Oduah and Senator Sani Yerima argued passionately in favour of life pension for presiding officers of the National Assembly at the retreat. Senator Ekweremadu, who is the chairman of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution, said it was necessary for the presiding officers to enjoy such benefits for life after their tenure.
He added: “This has nothing to do with an individual as it is about the institution, so let us not politicise it. Nobody elected the chief justice of Nigeria but he enjoys as pension, so if we cheapen our own institution, so be it but let us not make this a personal thing.”
Senator Oduah remarked that principal officers of the National Assembly are contemporaries of those in the executive and judicial arms of government and so, there is no reason why they should not enjoy such benefits when the other arms of government enjoy it.
“The executive enjoy it, so let us stand by our leaders as they should enjoy this benefit too. They act on behalf of us, they are equal to the executive and judiciary and should therefore, enjoy the same benefits," she stated.
Also contributing to the debate, Senator Yerima said after being elected by all the lawmakers and their constituencies, lawmakers should enjoy pension. He added: “Governors, who spend just four years enjoy it, so presiding officers should enjoy it too."
However, other principal officers including the senate leader Senator Ali Ndume and the senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio spoke against the proposal. Senator Ndume argued that the benefits accruing to holders of principal offices were already enormous and sought that the privilege be extended to all members of the National Assembly, if the law must pass.
Senator Akpabio said the possibility of multiple terms of office for legislators was enough to exempt them from such privilege. He added that the case of the state governors and their deputies is different as they were elected by the public but the principal officers of the National Assembly were only elected by their contemporaries.
Also, Senator Akpabio, noted that the governor of a state and the president cannot stay in office for more than two terms but for a senator, he can stay in office for 35 years. Also speaking against the proposal, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, said principal officers had had enough.