The Edo Assembly attracted controversy after amending the state’s pension law to provide housing for Oshiomhole.
The Edo Assembly attracted controversy after amending the state’s existing pension law to provide housing for Oshiomhole and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu.
Okonoboh made his comments during an interview with Punch. Excerpts below:
Why did you think it was necessary to review the law to include N300m houses for former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu, at a time when the country is in recession?
It was an existing law. What they (citizens) do not know is that laws are not made for specific people. When a law is made, it is for everybody who falls under what the law is talking about. Laws are not made for particular periods. Any law you make can operate in periods of recession; it can operate in periods when there is abundance.
A law is meant to last forever, except there is need to adjust the law. The social media, these days, have become a tool for mischief. People went to town, either ignorantly or out of mischief, to start suggesting that it was made because of a particular group of people and that it should not have been made at this period. There is no period you cannot make laws.
The amendment we made has not even become law yet; it has not been assented to. No budget has been made for such an amount. Even if there is a budget, it still depends on the availability of funds. And because they (critics) have a particular set of people in mind, they are telling us that those people already have houses and the rest.
But they have forgotten that we are in a new era; time will come when you will find governors without houses. I campaigned with (President Muhammadu) Buhari in 2011. It was then that we discovered that he had only two houses; one in Katsina State and the other in Kaduna State. He did not even have (a house) in Abuja.
Governors are going to come that would really work for the people and would not be interested in anything and they might not even have houses. So, whether you have three million houses or you do not have a house, it is a law. Some governors might say that they do not want the house, (but) it is a law.
These are things that people look forward to when they are in offices, and it might reduce the tendency for them to want to keep acquiring here and there. It (the law) already operates in three states. So, I do not see any reason for the hullabaloo. I expected that when people hear things like that, they would come and ask us and then, we would explain to them rather than go to town to talk.
Don’t you think that it was a wrong time to do so with the recession and economic challenges the country is going through?
Some say that N200m is too much. We do not believe so. I live in Lagos; N200m cannot buy you a house in Victoria Island, let alone Lekki or Banana Island. When we make a law like this, we must put something that will make the law to last for at least some time.
I can tell you (that) in 10 years, N200m will mean nothing. People who want to build a house then would be talking about a billion naira or something like that. So, a law must be made in such a way that, next year, you do not start doing an amendment. That is why the budget is there. And it is subject to availability; we didn’t give any time limit.
For the people (governor and deputy) who just left their offices, if it is (after) 20 years that the state has the money, that is what the law says. So, it is not something that will stretch the state’s resources or anything. So, we want those who do not understand to come so that we can explain to them.
Would you say you have done the right thing, if you consider the life of luxury governors have in office, in addition to security votes they get and other funds, to still use state funds to pamper them after leaving office?
What the law knows is that they were on salaries and allowances. If you are imagining other things, they are not known to the law. I want people to know that this is not a person; it is a law.
Some Nigerians believe that the motion was even Oshiomhole’s idea with the speed with which it was acted upon. Is that not the case?
No, he did not have a hand in it. It was strictly a bill of the House. I do not know what you mean by having a hand in it; the ex governor has never had anything to do with it. What power does a governor leaving office have over the House?
I visited him (Oshiomhole) recently, but I do not want to say that he was lonely. I went to his house that used to be filled with people but there was nobody there. He was leaving and had no such force over the House.