After moments of heated debate, the Senate Wednesrday threw out a bill seeking to provide remunerations for former presidents, heads of state, chief justices of the federation as well as heads of federal legislative chambers.
The bill, entitled: “A Bill for an Act to Provide Remuneration for Former Presidents, Heads of Federal Legislative Houses and Chief Justices of the Federation and Other Ancillary Matters 2013,” was presented for second reading but met with brick walls as most of the senators felt that initiating a new law to reward ex-rulers in the face of huge benefits already available to them was misplaced.
While opening debate on the bill, Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, recalled that whereas the fourth, fifth and sixth National Assembly had passed the bill, the president had failed to assent to it.
While imploring his colleagues to support the bill, Ndoma-Egba said he had opted to reintroduce the bill because of exigencies dictated by the degree of discomfort and economic situation that Nigeria’s past leaders go through.
He explained that the bill set out to repeal the law of the federation of Nigeria 2011 which provides remuneration for former presidents, heads of state, vice-presidents and chief of general staff, noting that the bill automatically shuts out all former heads of state who truncated democratically elected governments.
He also said the bill was essential in view of the need to acknowledge the services of certain leaders who made laudable contributions to the country’s growth, adding that the bill sought to ensure that persons impeached in office did not benefit from the bill. The Senate Leader also remarked that the bill sought to accommodate presiding officers of the federal legislature, insinuating that whereas people who serve in the executive have always had a way of taking care of themselves, the reverse is the case in the legislature.
Ndoma-Egba, who also insisted that the passage of the bill would guarantee stability and help leaders to avoid acts that could result in impeachment, expressed hopes that members of the Senate and House of Representatives would also be included at the committee level.
However, Senator Chris Ngige (Anambra Central) advised his colleagues to tread with caution, as he drew the attention of the Senate to Sections 84 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which according to him had already made provisions for the remunerations of former leaders through the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
Ngige wondered why it was necessary to enact another law on an issue that had already been taken care of by the constitution as he emphasised that if at all it was needful to consider the bill, that responsibility should be referred to the committee on the review of the constitution.
Also speaking, Senator Pwajok (Plateau North) noted that considering a bill seeking to reward individuals who had had the privileges of occupying exalted offices in the country and simultaneously enjoyed access to immeasurable rewards and benefits was ill-timed and counter-productive especially in Nigeria’s current situation where lots of persons live in pains and have no hope of meaningful future.
According to Pwajok, it would be misplaced for the Senate to be busy enacting a law to reward people whom he noted were already comfortable in a country where lots of innocent Nigerians either get killed everyday or forced to live in anguish.
He added that the move became much more provocative when the constitution had already provided remunerations for such persons as he added that the commitment of the Senate at the moment should be to legislate on issues that affect the lives of countless Nigerians and with the tendency to deepen democracy.
In his submission, Senator George Sekibo (Rivers East), expressed his total opposition to the bill, saying a situation where remunerations are provided for principal officers of the National Assembly would create room for leadership crisis as every member will be seeking to become principal officers.
Besides, Sekibo noted that legislating on the matter at the time the federal government had been striving hard to reduce the cost of governance in the country would absolutely be uncomplimentary, adding that internal mechanism should rather be worked out to remunerate affected leaders instead of enacting laws to that effect.
Earlier, Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), faulted the opinions that former military rulers should be accommodated in the bill, arguing that all individuals who had derailed the course of democratic government should not only be made to tender unreserved apology to the country but also be barred from participating in partisan politics.
Adeyemi vehemently opposed the submission of Senator Ehigie Uzamere (Edo South), who advocated the inclusion of former military rulers in the remuneration package as he raised a point of order to reject Uzamere’s position, describing it as immoral and ungodly.
But Senator Ganiyu Solomon (Lagos West), advised his colleagues to first of all cross check the reason successive presidents had declined assent to the bill, which had been passed by three successive legislative sessions before dissipating energy on renewed moves to revive it.
Before the end of the debate, it was already clear that the bill would meet its untimely death which became a reality when the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the sitting, called for a voice vote.
While the voice of opponents to the bill was higher during the first call, it even rose much higher after the second call and without attempts to apply the power available to the presiding officer to safeguard the bill, Ekweremadu announced the death of the bill and forthwith, it was thrown out.
Also, a bill meant to forestall incessant harassment of Nigerians using cars with tinted glasses scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate yesterday and was committed to committees on police and judiciary for further legislation.
The committees are expected to report back to the Senate in two weeks.
With the title, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles (Prohibition of Tinted Glass) Act CAP M21, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2011 and for Other Matters Connected Therewith,” sponsor of the bill, Senator Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom North-east), said passing the bill would put paid to the current controversy trailing the recent announcement by the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar, banning affected vehicles from Nigerian roads.
In his lead debate, Enang said Section 3 (1) of the bill said owners of cars with tinted glasses reserved the right to use their cars but should only make representation to the IG or commissioners of police in their respective states with a view to registering such cars within 90 days.
He also said the bill would protect the right of owners of such cars and enable them to use their cars without fear or harassment adding that the 90 days grace for the registration of the cars is an extension of the initial 14 days in the law being repealed.
Further, Enang said even though security consideration is an underlying factor in the controversy over the use of tinted glasses, it should “not constitute an affront to the fundamental rights of every other Nigerian against discrimination as enshrined under Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.”
However, Section 4 (1) of the bill provides for a fine of N50,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months for violation of the law as against the N2,000 provision in the current Act when it was enacted in 1991.
Enang further said if anyone at all should be harassed or punished for the use of tinted glasses, it should be persons who use manually fitted tinted glasses, insisting that punishing persons who use factory fitted tinted glasses who do not have a hand in their production is now being perceived as a sort of discrimination.
But Senator Adegbenga Kaka (Ogun East), while supporting the bill, faulted the move to impose N50,000 fine for violations, arguing that such amount was too outrageous for someone who innocently buys a factory fitted tinted glasses’ car and therefore should be reduced to only N10,000.
Also supporting the bill, Senator George Sekibo (Rivers East), said it was wrong to expect a citizen who bought a factory fitted tinted glasses’ car to proceed to Aba or Onitsha to get it removed. In the same vein, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa West), said it was unfortunate that the law which was made to prohibit manually-fitted glasses is now being extended to factory fitted glasses.