Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has declined assent to the bill seeking life pension for former lawmakers from the state as proposed and passed by the state House of Assembly last week.
The controversial bill has attracted condemnation from Bayelsans, including civil society groups who were planning a showdown with the lawmakers.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson, who said this on Monday, added that the governor had conveyed his decision to decline assent to the bill in a letter to the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly on Monday.
He said the governor held consultations with the Assembly members in Toru-Orua, where he explained his reason for rejecting the bill to the lawmakers.
Iworiso-Markson quoted the governor as having said that the bill was inconsistent with Section 124 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Dickson said he was of the view that the state Assembly lacked the powers to expand the categories of public servants who should be entitled to pension.
He stressed that he had to withhold assent to the bill because the state, which was bedevilled with a lot of challenges in spite of its low Internally Generated Revenue base and unstable earnings from the oil economy, was the only state in Nigeria to come up with such a bill.
The governor stressed that he was guided in the decision by the principle that government should not be for a select privileged few in the society.
He said the lawmakers and indeed the Nigerian populace would attest to the fact that all the decisions of his administration were guided by the urge “to protect public interest and promote the general good.”
Dickson said, “The provisions of this bill granting pension to members of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and the extension of same to former members of the Assembly and Bayelsa indigenes who served in the old Rivers State House of Assembly, is inconsistent with Section 124 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“I am not convinced about the legality of this bill which seeks to expand the categories of persons entitled to pension. While I agree that the Assembly can adjust the quantum of pension payable to persons entitled to pension, I am not convinced that the House has powers to add to the categories of pensionable public officers.
“Evidently, there is no record of any other state in this country that has expanded the categories of pensionable public officers to include lawmakers. I do not agree that Bayelsa, which is coping with all the myriads of issues and challenges, with our low Internally Generated Revenue base and the unpredictable oil economy, should be the first to initiate this.
“Honourable members of this Assembly, Bayelsans and other Nigerians following our progress as a government would clearly attest to the fact that my entire public service, actions and decisions are marked by what is in the public interest, particularly the interest of the vulnerable, ordinary people. It is in the service of this category of people that in the last seven years, I have, in an unprecedented manner, which only history will record and reward, extended the frontiers of the benefits of purposeful democratic governance.
“It is my philosophy that government should not be for a select few. In the last seven years, my actions and decisions, which have sometimes elicited opposition from the elite who have been feeding fat on the resources of our state, have been marked by this singular disposition of mine.
“And I do not intend at this point to abandon that. Rather, I intend to do more to consolidate on the policies and actions which have been taken to protect the vulnerable. Therefore, I am unable to assent to this bill which in my view aims to expand and consolidate the class interest of a privileged few.”
The governor said the quest to protect the vulnerable against the privileged few inspired the populist programmes of his administration.
These, he said, included the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme with over 150, 000 beneficiaries, the Education Trust Fund, local and foreign scholarship programmes, empowerment schemes, support for the aged, the most vulnerable, employment, public housing and a number of other social intervention programmes.
He commended the leadership of the House for the healthy relationship with the executive and the high level of productivity as shown by the high number of bills and motions passed during the period.
Dickson said notwithstanding his decision to decline assent to the bill, he still “holds the Assembly in very high esteem.”
The governor also noted that he had to set up a committee on the contributory pension scheme to make it workable so that interested assembly members and other appointees at the state and local government levels could take advantage of it.
Somali Jihadists Kill Three Americans in Attack on Kenya Military Base
Jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group on Sunday stormed a military base used by US forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, killing three American citizens and destroying several aircraft and military vehicles, officials said.
Attackers breached heavy security at Camp Simba at dawn but were pushed back and four jihadists killed, said army spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna.
The American military, however, said three US citizens died in the attack including a service member and two civilian defence contractors.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,” General Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command (Africom), said in a statement.
Two other US Department of Defence personnel were wounded, the statement added, without giving further details.
Al-Shabaab has launched regular cross-border raids since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union force protecting the internationally backed government — which the jihadists have been trying to overthrow for more than a decade.
The Lamu region, which includes popular tourist beach destination Lamu Island, lies close to the Somali frontier and has suffered frequent attacks, often carried out with roadside bombs.
Njuguna said “an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip” at 5:30 am but it was repulsed.
“Four terrorists’ bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe,” he said, adding that a fire had broken out but had since been dealt with.
Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said officers were “on high alert” after the attack.
An internal police report seen by AFP said two Cessna aircraft, two American helicopters and “multiple American vehicles” were destroyed at the airstrip.
Local government official Irungu Macharia said five people had been arrested near the camp and were being interrogated.
Shabaab claimed to have killed 17 Americans and nine Kenyan soldiers after the attack.
The nearby civilian airport at Manda Bay, which brings tourists visiting Lamu Island — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — was closed for several hours after the incident, according to the civil aviation authority.
Al-Shabaab said in a statement it had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base”.
AFRICOM accused Al-Shabaab of lying in order to create false headlines.
Shabaab countered with a second statement, saying it had been a 10-hour firefight and mocking the US “inability to fend off an attack by just a handful of steadfast Muslim men”.
The group referred to an uptick in US military airstrikes under President Donald Trump, accusing the US of “strafing villages from above and indiscriminately bombarding innocent women and children.”
AFRICOM said in April it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.
US military network
The Somali jihadists have staged several large-scale attacks inside Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia as well as to target foreign interests.
The group has been fighting to overthrow an internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2006, staging regular attacks on government buildings, hotels, security checkpoints and military bases in the country
Despite years of costly efforts to fight Al-Shabaab, the group on December 28 managed to detonate a vehicle packed with explosives in Mogadishu, killing 81 people.
The spate of attacks highlights the group’s resilience and capacity to inflict mass casualties at home and in the region, despite losing control of major urban areas in Somalia.
In a November report, a UN panel of experts on Somalia noted an “unprecedented number” of homemade bombs and other attacks across the Kenya-Somalia border in June and July last year.
On Thursday, at least three people were killed when suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen ambushed a bus travelling in the area.
According to the Institute for Security Studies, the United States has 34 known military bases in Africa, from where it conducts “drone operations, training, military exercises, direct action and humanitarian activities”.