In Defence of Parliamentary Pension

Nwachukwu Egbunike

Members of the National Assembly want a pension for their tedious service to our country. This to my view should be treated with the urgency it deserves. After all, if civil servants and other public officials – in spite of their low performance – should go receive emolument from the treasury after retirement, who should deny our undistinguished legislators of their right (democracy dividend).

It’s a national sacrifice to stand for elections into the National Assembly, to abandon one’s place of residence and move to Abuja is such a grave risk. Besides law making is no mean job and the rigours associated with it are immense. It no child’s play to pass a bill, carry out oversight functions, screen and confirm appointments for the executive. In addition, our family and pocket representatives have to cross the seas on legislative jamborees. If this is not enough to merit a pension, I wonder what else will suffice.

It is true that the legislative report card since 2007 was a dismal 5%, passing 15 bills out of a total of 284 bills that was presented to them. But we are all in a learning process, and Nigerians should not expect a miracle overnight. Besides the senate loudspeaker insists that they should be judged by the impact of the bills passed not the number. This means that even if one bill is passed per year, it is better than rushing many bills out of the legislative oven. In this case, the more is certainly not better.

Pension for our legislators will certainly go a long way in checking corruption. We are all witnesses to the impressive Democracy Day celebration of the National Assembly. The hunted halls of the chambers reverberated with the presence of some former disgraced and shameless principal officers. If there was pension, some of them would not have been dishonoured out of office. Asides, the chief whip would not have faced scourging that he got for misapplying funds meant for the democracy owambe. Poor fellow, if there was pension, he would have been more generous in dispensing the funds amongst his colleagues. Every undistinguished parliamentarian would have also choped and there would have been peace.

And pay no attention to the self acclaimed columnists and their verbal effusions. They can spill as much bile as they want, if it helps to reduce their blood pressure, well and good. Nonetheless, as dignified parliamentarians who deserve on the best, you cannot be distracted from your duty to the nation. Most of these journalists are not only afflicted with the “diarrhoea of the mouth” but are also chronic bad bele patients – beefers.

Let them squeal for all you care. Will this be the first time that ASUU will be going on strike? What does one expect from those hooligans parading as union activist? If they are angry that a parliamentarian earns more, they better abandon their professorial chairs and join politics. There is no power, and so what? The roads are not in good condition; these useless busybodies had better visit other African countries and compare their roads with ours. Which legislator can only focus on these developmental issues on an empty stomach or a bleak future? As a matter of fact, these issues only impress the urgency of having pension package for the dishonourable members.

Don’t mind them if they come up with the usual American or European models. We are certainly not oyibos. The National Assembly is on the verge of developing a home grown approach model of parliamentary procedures, a cardinal aspect of which includes pension for law makers. Bearing in mind the peculiar cultural terrine, one needs something to fall back upon. Besides the storm in the tropic, is usually unpredictable and violent.

I hope that the executive will treat this defence of parliamentary pension as a matter of national security. They should avoid the altercations that seem to characterise the relationship between both arms of government especially when money is involved. The pension for the un-honourable members of the National Hall of Shame should be passed with immediate effect!

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