NO fewer than five states, including Imo, Ondo, Abia, Osun, and Benue are owing backlogs of pension arrears running into several months.
Despite receiving the Paris Club refund and bailout funds from the Federal Government, findings revealed that the concerned states have failed to clear the backlogs of pension and gratuities.
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Bunmi Ogunkolade, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH on Friday, lamented the injustice meted out to pensioners, noting that the non-payment of the pension had imposed severe hardship on the concerned retirees.
Ogunkolade said, “The states that are owing pensions are Imo, Abia, Ondo, Osun. Benue is a major culprit owing about 27 months. Ondo pays 60 per cent of the pension. The states are also not implementing the increases like the 24 per cent increment in July 2010 till date; most of the states have not implemented the consequential adjustment announced by the Federal Government.”
He also disclosed that only Lagos and Borno states had started implementing the consequential pension adjustment announced by the Federal Government.
“Only a few states like Lagos and Borno are implementing that, so we have backlogs of that. The last time most of the states paid the gratuity was in 2012 so all the people that retired are still owed gratuities. What we learnt was that at their (Nigeria) Governors’ Forum meeting, if a state expressed its intention to pay, they discouraged such a governor, saying he would put them under pressure if he pays. We are grateful to the Federal Government but the states are not doing what they are supposed to do, the NUP spokesperson lamented.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum had said the states would clear all outstanding pension liabilities after the removal of fuel subsidy in 2022.
The governors’ forum said this at its 36th teleconference meeting on Wednesday.
The Federal Government had said it would end fuel subsidy by 2022 and replace it with a N5,000-a-month transportation grant to the poorest Nigerians.
In a communiqué released after the meeting, Chairman of NGF and Governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, said the governors had resolved to include the settlement of all outstanding pension obligations as part of the social compact with citizens for the removal of fuel subsidy.
But Ogunkolade dismissed the pledge, saying the governors could not be trusted.
He said, “They are liars; if any governor says that, he is a liar. What did they do with the Paris refund and special bailout? They received bailout funds twice with specific instructions to clear arrears of pension and salary from the President. They didn’t do it.
“They are just being clever by half and cannot be trusted. What we are hoping is that the Federal Government should compel them to pay the pension arrears. It would be better that way because all the money they got from the Federal Government was not used in clearing the backlog.”
We take care of pensioners, says Imo
But the Imo State Government said it was taking care of pensioners in the state.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Governor on Print Media, Modestus Nwamkpa, said that the state government had made arrangements for retirees who had yet to receive their pension to get it before Christmas.
According to Nwamkpa, Governor Hope Uzodinma was committed to the welfare of pensioners in the state.
He said, “The state government is committed to the welfare of the senior citizens. We are paying pensioners their pensions but those who have yet to get theirs will surely do before Christmas.”
Govt pays percentage pensions, gratuities piecemeal – Ondo pensioners
Pensioners in Ondo State said the state government owed them backlogs of pensions and gratuities.
The state NUP chairman, Mr Johnson Osunyemi, who spoke with one of our correspondents, explained that the government had been paying pension to retirees ‘in percentage arrangements.’
Osunyemi said, “The government recently paid 35 per cent to the state and 90 per cent to the local government pensioners. But they still have some backlogs of pension arrears to pay us. As they have paid (for) this month (December), it remains the arrears of seven months for the state pensioners and six and a half for the local government pensioners
“For the gratuities, till date, the government owes us almost N65bn. But every month, the government would release N200m for the payment of gratuities to the state pensioners and N50m for the local government pensioners. This does not cover anything and if we continue like this, in the next few years, the state may not be able to pay the backlogs of gratuities again.”
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, however, said the government was addressing the issue.
“Action ongoing in respect of that before Christmas,” Ojogo said.
Ikpeazu releases N3.2bn for arrears, pensioners yet to be paid
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State on Wednesday released over N3.2bn for the payment of parastatals’ salary arrears, subventions and pensioners in the state.
According to the State Commissioner for Information, Eze Chikamnayo, the Abia Health Management Board got N828mn for salary arrears; secondary school teachers, N983mn; 12 months arrears for Abia State College of Education Technical Arochukwu, four months subvention for Abia State Polytechnic, Aba; N520m for Abia pensioners, while two months subvention was disbursed to the Abia State University Teaching Hospital Aba, and three months subvention was released to the Abia State University.
The College of Health Technology was said to have received subvention for five months, in addition to a grant of N200m to facilitate a relocation to its permanent site.
However, the pensioners said they have yet to be paid.
An official of the state branch of the NUP, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said pensioners in the state were owed about 30 months’ arrears.
“Even when paid, some are given 50 per cent while others, like permanent secretaries, are paid less than that,” the official noted.
But the Osun State Secretary of the NUP, Dele Aina, said the group was already discussing with the state government regarding the outstanding pension.
Aina said, “We are already discussing the issue with the government. We are looking at an amicable resolution of the issue of pension arrears and the effort is yielding positive results.”
Asked about the payment of outstanding pension and gratuities, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ismail Omipidan, said the administration inherited outstanding pension and gratuities.
Omipidan said, “We inherited some arrears and we have been making efforts on a monthly basis to reduce the burden. The question of when we will pay does not arise. We have been paying and we will continue to pay.”