The controversial executive pension bill sent to the Benue State House of Assembly for consideration has suffered a setback  as members have suspended sitting due to non-payment of six months’ salary arrears and other allowances.

Recall that the outgoing government of Governor Samuel Ortom had initiated an executive pension bill

seeking to place ex-governors and their deputies on gratuity, pension and other benefits.

The bill, which had received condemnation by some people in the state, including the governor-elect, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia,  is to, among others,  provide for ex-governors a permanent residential accommodation in any place of their choice in the country,  four new cars every four years and two new cars every four years for former deputy governors.

The bill, which has scaled first reading, when passed will also  provide six personal staff for former governors and three for the former deputy governors. It also  provides for free medical treatment for the past governors,  their spouses and  at least four children under age 18.

A member of the House of Assembly, who spoke to our correspondent exclusively on Tuesday on condition of anonymity, said the House had suspended sitting until all their emoluments were paid.

The lawmaker, who said the outgoing governor met with the Peoples Democratic Party caucus of the Assembly last weekend, lamented that the lawmakers were owed six months salary arrears and  allowances.

“During the meeting, he (Ortom) promised to pay all the outstanding allowances and salary with May allocation before his exit on May 29.

“As I am talking to you (Tuesday afternoon) December, 2022 salary has not been paid to us, lawmakers,  not to talk of January, February, March and April this year. It is six months now. Do you know that the House is also being owed three months overhead?

“So, we have refused to work on the pension bill. We, members, have suspended sitting until all our emoluments are paid.”

Some of the major bills  pending before the House, according to the lawmaker,  are the ex-governors’ pension bill, public account bill and amendment to tertiary education bill.

When contacted, the Chairman, Information Committee of the Benue State House of Assembly, Tertsea Gbisea, however, denied that the House had suspended sitting due to non-payment of salaries and other emoluments.

Rather, Gbisea said the House had not been sitting was as a result of official engagements.

“The House has not suspended sitting but the point is that members have been on official engagements. Members had earlier gone for electioneering and after that some of our members, including myself, took annual trip  to the United States and we just came back. We ought to have embarked on this trip last year.

“Others, who could not get the US visa, are right now in Abuja to get visa to one of the European countries. The moment we are done with all these, we will come back and do the needful,” Gbisea said.

Asked about the unpaid salaries and allowances, the lawmaker said the situation was not peculiar to Benue lawmakers.

He said, “Our case is not special; the same months of unpaid salaries the government owes workers is  what we are  being owed. The governor has been saying that all these because of paucity of funds and he has promised to clear all.”

On bills before the House, Gbisea said he wouldn’t promise the passage of the bills before the exit of the outgoing government.

He said, “I can not answer yes or no on the possibility of passing the pension and other bills before the House. You know that every bill is being taken on its merit.

“When bills are tabled before members in the chamber, we are to do justice by forwarding them to the appropriate committee. No bill is predetermined; it depends on the argument that will come and also depends on if yes is more than no; whichever one is more will have it.”


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