The National Assembly held an extraordinary session which witnessed the laying of four Bills. The state laid the Bills under a certificate of urgency, which obliges the Speaker to put the motion of the state to a vote without debate once each Bill is introduced. The Victims Reparation Bill, 2023
The four Bills are as follows:
The Former Presidents Bill, 2023
Ban from Public Office (TRRC) Bill
The members of the National Assembly did arrive at a consensus to consider three of the Bills under a certificate of urgency. However, the fourth Bill which seeks to repeal the Former Presidents (Office, Allowances and other Benefits) Act, 2006 and enact a new Former Presidents Act, brought controversy from the very inception of the vote on whether to consider a Bill under a certificate of emergency.
The National Assembly was divided when the Speaker put the motion before the members for a decision. It was not clear whether those who said no by acclamation or yes carried the majority. Hence a motion was made for a division so that the votes will be counted. After the counting 30 members agreed for the Bill to be heard under a certificate of urgency while 17 voted against.
Once the vote was carried, members should have proceeded to discuss the principles of the Bill and then proceed to deal with the other stages which enable the members to scrutinise the Bill and give their own recommendations and raise their own objections.
Readers would recall that in 2006, a Bill was passed and enacted entitled The Former Presidents (Office, Allowances and other Benefits) Act. The law could benefit only one president and that was former President Jawara. According to the Act, a former president was to receive a monthly allowance of D50,000 and other benefits. There is also provision to finance the running of an office with maximum staff of four and other benefits that Foroyaa will elaborate on in the next edition, when we will compare the benefits under the Act under which President Jawara was remunerated to the one which former presidents in the future will benefit from if assented to by the president.
In summary, the current Bill which if assented to would be relied on to remunerate future presidents with a monthly salary equivalent to 80 percent of a serving president, medical insurance for his/her family, allowances for his/her spouses if he or she passes away.
The National Assembly members therefore needed to scrutinise the Bill and on the basis of their conscience and the National interest as well as what is happening in other Ecowas States, determine the package of emoluments and other benefits that would encourage serving presidents to respect term limits as well as remain honest while serving the nation knowing that life after the presidency will not lead to bankruptcy
This is the essence of remunerating former heads of state. The sum and benefits allocated must be reasonable and justifiable in a democratic state. It must be objectively determined based on the cost of living of a country.