The Benue State House of Assembly, on Thursday, passed the controversial executive pension bill, initiated by outgoing Governor Samuel Ortom.
The bill, among others, provides for ex-governors of the state 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.
It also provides six personal staff for ex-governors and three for former deputy governors; as well as free medical treatment for past governors, their spouses and at least four children under age 18.
It was learnt that lawmakers passed the bill on Thursday after receiving an alert of three out of six months’ salary arrears owed them.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported that the lawmakers suspended sitting and abandoned the bill to protest their unpaid salary arrears and allowances.
One of the lawmakers, who pleaded not to be mentioned, had three weeks ago informed our correspondent that the House decided to suspend sitting and shun the controversial executive bill until their entitlements were paid.
Bent on ensuring the passage of the bill, it was gathered that the outgoing government allegedly engaged some of the lawmakers to resume sitting.
It would be recalled that the last sitting of the House was disrupted by political thugs, ostensibly to keep lawmakers opposed to the bill at bay.
Having received the alert on Thursday, members were said to have conveyed a plenary session where the bill was passed though with some adjustments.
The Minority Leader of the House, Bem Ngutyo, confirmed to our correspondent that the bill had been passed with ‘some adjustment’.
When contacted, he said, “Yes, the House passed the bill just now but we reduced the contents badly; the four cars to governors were reduced to two, two to deputies reduced to one, the portion to provide accommodation to past governors at any place of their choice was expunged.
“Also, the portion of medical trips abroad twice a year was reduced to once.”
Asked if the governor had cleared the six months’ salary arrears and three months’ overhead, Ngutyo said, “We have received an alert of three months salary out of six,” adding that the three months’ overhead had also been paid.
Corroborating the submission of the Minority Leader, the Chairman, the House Committee on Information, Tertsea Gbisea, said the House passed the bill but with ‘extensive changes made.’
Gbisea said, “Yes, a version of the Maintenance of Former Elected Governors of Benue State Bill was passed today, extensive changes were made on the version sent by the executive.
“We had in mind the dire financial situation of the state and did the needful. The auditor-general report was also adopted two days ago.”