The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, has signed the amended version of the controversial ‘Akwa Ibom State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Bill’ into law.
The bill had drawn wide criticisms recently, a development that made Akpabio to call for its amendment by the state House of Assembly.
The amendment, which is the fifth of the 16-year-old law, repealed the contentious ceiling of N100m medical expenses for each ex-governor and his spouse, as well as a ceiling of N50m medical expenses for each former deputy governor and his spouse.
The law came into existence in 1998 as a special grant for past state governors and their deputies, while it was amended in 1999 and adopted in 2000 as Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Bill. It was amended again in 2007 and 2014.
The state government had sought to place a ceiling on how much could be spent by the state on each former governor and former deputy governor and their spouses.
Addressing journalists in Lagos in the thick of the controversy, Akpabio had maintained that the contentious provision was made in good faith and to check abuses, adding that leaving the law open-ended was not in the best interest of tax payers.
The governor, however, said he considered the controversy as a distraction and he had decided to “lift the siege on truth” by asking for the provision of the law to be repealed. He stated that “history will vindicate the just.”
Akpabio pointed out that he would not benefit from the law until he leaves office in 2015.
According to him, the law covers former governors and their deputies who served both in the old Cross River State, from which Akwa Ibom State was created, but would not cover ex-governors and their deputies who served less than three years.
Akpabio stated that the new amended law has expunged the ceilings the public was criticising. He said now there would be free medical treatment for ex-governors, their deputies and their spouses “to protect the resources of the state.”
He urged the state government to ensure that the law was not abused.