A former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Chris Ekpeyong, has faulted the uproar generated by the state Governors and Deputy Governors’ Pension Law recently passed by the state House of Assembly and assented to the state Governor, Godswill Akpabio, saying the content of the law was grossly exaggerated and blown out of proportion by a cross-section of Nigerians.
Ekpeyong, who spoke with THISDAY in Lagos yesterday, wondered why the law drew so much attention when Akwa Ibom was not the only state in the country that had enacted such a law.
“I don’t know why people blew it out of proportion as if Akwa Ibom is the only state in the country that has enacted such law. May be it is because of the governor’s extrovert nature. There is nothing new or strange in the law. Other states have similar laws that are worse. Go and study them,” he said.
He attributed the uproar to the political intrigues in the state ahead of the 2015 elections, adding that there was nothing in the law that was strange.
The former deputy, who said the law had been in existence since 2000, added that there was nothing new added to it, other than pegging the amount to be collected by the state's former governors and their deputies.
He argued that what Akpabio was trying to do with the new amendment was to save money for the state by pegging the amount to be collected by a former governors and deputies, instead of leaving it open-ended like the previous government.
The former deputy governor said: "the new amendment was in the wisdom of the governor who felt it was better to define the limit of the amount to be drawn by the former governors and their deputies instead of still leaving it open-ended."
Describing Akpabio as a governor who has done better than the previous governors of the state, Ekpeyong wondered why Nigerians would show so much interest in the affairs of the state.
He explained that before then, they (former governors and deputy governors) had held series meetings where they agreed that there was the need to amend the law for it to be explicit, in terms of determining the limit of the amount due to a particular former officer.
“In the wisdom of the governor, it was better to define the limit of the amount to be drawn by the former governors and their deputies instead of leaving it undefined.
“I really do not know why Nigerians reacted like that to the law. This law in question exists in other states and I did not hear of any uproar it generated, in Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Lagos, Rivers, Imo and other states. I don’t know why that of Akwa Ibom will be an exception. I think what I see is that they want Akwa Ibom people to go cap in hand, begging for food,” he said.
The former deputy governor, who disclosed that he was the one who mooted the idea for the law in 2000, argued that rather than castigate the governor for his initiative to save the state’s resource, he should have been commended.
Saying that he was speaking on behalf of other former deputy governors of the state, Ekpeyong said the law was in order.
“Because they just heard N100 million for medical treatment, everybody just went berserk. They simply cashed in on the fact that Akpabio is an extrovert to a fault. The whole uproar is because of the political intrigues in the state ahead of the 2015 elections.
“This is my house, he did not build it for me. But he has done better than the previous governors. I don’t know why Nigerians are interested in Akwa Ibom State,” he said.
Contending that the law was in accordance with 1999 Constitution, the former deputy governor challenged those berating the law to go ahead and examine similar laws enacted in other states, noting that they were a lot more generous than the one in force in Akwa Ibom.
He said a lot of people reacted to the law the way they did because of Akpobio’s extrovert disposition.
Comparing the Lagos State law with that of Akwa Ibom State for instance, Ekpeyong said while the new law in his state offered two cars to governors every four years, Lagos gives six cars every three years to former governors and their deputies.
He added that while Lagos equally offers free medical treatment to governors and their deputies as well as members of their immediate families, it also offers them accommodation in any area of their choice in the state, while governors who served two consecutive term are also given two houses – one in Lagos and the other in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In the case of Akwa Ibom State, the former deputy governor said only the governors and deputy governors as well as their spouses that are entitled to medical treatment, while their choice of accommodation is limited to a five-bedroom maisonette in the state.