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Pensioners’ hardship worsens as states owe backlogs of gratuities

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State governments including Kano, Benue, Osun, Delta, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Rivers and Kwara are currently owing pensioners many of whom are dying without receiving their entitlements.

Labour leaders and officials of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, who spoke to The PUNCH in separate interviews on Thursday, said besides failing to remit the contributory pensions, retirees on the defined benefit scheme were being owed.

But state officials attributed the delay in paying pensions and gratuities to the poor economy of the country and assured that the entitlements would be paid as soon as their cash flow improved.

The defined benefit scheme is the pension scheme that was in effect before the adoption and payment of pensions to new retirees under the CPS as stipulated by the Pension Reform Act.

Under the DBS, the total pension obligation is borne by government as against the CPS where the accumulated pension at retirement is based on a pension plan in which an employer/employee contribute in varying percentages to build a retirement fund for an individual.

Many retirees are still paid based on the defined benefit scheme.

The Chairman of the NUP in Benue State, Mike Vembe, said that pensioners in the state were owed 34 months pension arrears.

Vembe said that local government pensioners were owed 72 months pension arrears.

He stated, “When I assumed office six months ago, what I met on ground was that state pensioners were owed 34 months pension arrears and local government pensioners were owed 72 months arrears.

“Pensioners were divided into two groups and each group is to be paid every other month.  If one group is paid this month, the other group will be paid next month.

Benue owes us 34-month pension arrears, gov says state allocation meager –Pensioners

“I met the governor over this and the governor said the allocation coming to the state was meager but I pleaded with him to maintain the system so that pensioners will be getting something every month and he agreed and has maintained that”, Vembe said.

Osun owes pensioners 15 months pension, 45 retirees died in August –NUP Secretary

In the Osun State, the Secretary of the NUP, Mr Dele Aina,  said the state government owed pensioners 15 months pension arrears.

According to him, 45 pensioners in the state died in August. He added that many retirees struggling with various ailments could not afford medications. This, he said, was leading to preventable deaths.

Aina, who insisted that the amount owed pensioners in the state ran into several billions of naira, said the NUP  had made several efforts to get the outstanding pensions.

He said, “Just last month, we lost 45 pensioners. The hardship we are exposed to is indescribable and it should not continue. We are owed 15 months pensions by the government. We hope they will pay us as soon possible to enable us to take care of our health.”

We have reported Okowa to God’s court –Delta pensioners

The Delta State pensioners told The PUNCH that they had reported the state Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, to God’s court.

The Vice-Chairman of the Association of Contributory Pension Scheme, NUP, Mr Antony Osanakwu, stated this in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday in Asaba

He said, “The government of Delta State is deceitful.  They are just playing on our intelligence because we have seen that Okowa does not want to pay.

“But we have reported the matter to God’s court where there is no appeal. The association has gone to God to seek redress for non-payment of benefits accruable to the retirees in the state.

“I cannot remember how much now, but we are being owed  many months arrears, but according to Okowa, when Bishop of Ugheli Diocease asked  him, he said Delta State Government owed over N100bn  pension benefits.”

Delta releases N1.3bn monthly to settle  pension arrears –Okowa’s aide

Faulting the pensioners, the state government said it spent N1.3bn monthly to settle the pension areas in the state.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Olise Ifeajika, stated this in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday.

He said, “If they said they had handed over the matter to God, so there is no need to take it to the public again. The government has been paying over N1.3bn every month to upset the arrears of pensions in the state.

“They cannot resort to blackmail.  Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said it at the time the issue of pensions came up, the last administration before he came on board didn’t  pay anything.”

Ekiti pensioners owed billions, dying in droves –NUP chairman

On his part, the Chairman of the NUP in Ekiti State, Joel Akinola,  said that the unpaid arrears had made life terrible for the pensioners “in terms of  health, feeding, living in a conducive environment coupled with the high cost of living.”

According to him, there is a high mortality rate among pensioners

The pensioners’ leader, who said government had refused to respond to the series of communications over the unpaid pension arrears, said, “We will keep appealing that the state government should have compassion for us.”

Shedding light on the plight of the pensioners, the NUP boss said, “Recently, the state government released N100m to pay part of the backlog of gratuities owed some pensioners.

“Out of the N100m, in a group of 20 retirees that should benefit, 11 of them are alive while nine were dead.

“It is the Pension Transition Administration Directorate that can do the computing of what we are being owed accurately, but if we look at the arrears of pensions and outstanding gratuities, it is in the region of several billions of naira.”

Kano owes retirees N27bn  gratuities, fails to pay benefits since 2016

Pensioners in Kano State said the state government owed them over N27bn gratuities.

The Chairman of the state chapter of the NUP, Ahmed Gwale, disclosed this in a telephone interview with The PUNCH in Kano on Thursday.

He said the state government had not been able to pay gratuities to all civil servants that retired since July 2016.

“The state government has not paid retirement benefits to retirees from July 2016 to date,” Gwale stated.

The Borno State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Yusuf Inuwa,  said over 800 retired local government workers had not been paid their pensions.

This, he said, was a result of the biometric data verification in the local government areas.

But the state Head of Service, Simon Malgwi, said the state pensioners were being paid,  except those who had problem with verification.

In Enugu State, retirees of parastatals are owed two-year pensions while their gratuities were last paid in 2005.

But retired civil servants were owed three months of pensions while gratuities were last paid in 2010.

A retiree, Chief Eze Michael, noted that the present administration deceived pensioners when it was vying for second term.

According to him,  the administration said it would be setting aside  N100m  every month for the payment of gratuities and pensions.

Eze said, “This administration has not paid gratuities since its inception. The last administration of Governor Sullivan Chime paid gratuities up to 2010 but Ugwuanyi’s administration has not paid gratuities except for retired permanent secretaries.”

The state government confirmed that it owed pensions and gratuities but said it was working hard to clear all the arrears as the cash flow improved.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Chidi Aroh, who stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents, said he didn’t have the statistics of entitlements owed.

Aroh said, “Your statistics are not correct, like everybody knows in the nation that the economy is not really good. We came into government since 2015. So if somebody is not being paid gratuities since 2010 it obviously means he had not been paid five years before we came into government.

“I can tell you that since we came into government, we have been making steady payment. In fact, it is our government that restored payment to where the gratuities stopped. What was happening before was if you knew somebody in government he would isolate you and pay you your gratuity. But when we came onboard we said no, even those who didn’t know anybody worked for this state and they were entitled to their gratuities”

Aroh said payment of pension had been regular. On the issue of parastatals, he said “I know that we have been making efforts to clear all those backlogs in Water Corporation, Daily Star, among others. So what I want you to take from me is that the state government is doing all within its powers to make sure that all the financial responsibilities are being met as cash flow allows.”

In Ogun State, it gathered that the government owed local government pensioners N68bn of 10 years outstanding of gratuities.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress in the state  lamented the alleged non-payment of 150 months contributory  pensions of the workers in the state, running into N50bn

2,000 Kwara pensioners die pursuing payment of 11 months’ pensions

No fewer than 2,000  pensioners in Kwara State died while pursuing the payment of their 11 months pensions.

The state Chairman of the NUP, Alhaji Saidu Oladimeji, who disclosed this,   said retired local government workers,  primary school teachers and retirees in the state Universal Basic Education Board were being owed 11 months pensions arrears.

“The previous government was paying the pensioners on a percentage basis. Although the present administration led by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has been paying pension regularly since he came to power, but it has yet to pay the arrears of pensions owed by its predecessor. Over 2000 pensioners have died in the state because of non-payment of their pensions not by this administration but by the former government”, he stressed.

The pensioners, under the auspices of the NUP in the Ondo State disclosed that the state government owed them an accumulated sum of N70bn gratuities since 2011.

The state chairman of the union, Mr Johnson Osunyemi, who stated this, said the leadership of the union had met with the state government on the matter but the latter promised to pay up as soon as the state finances improved.

He said  “On our pension, our members at the state level are still owed two months arrears, while those in the local government were owed four months pensions. But for the gratuities, since till date, the government is owning us almost N70bn since 2011. I can also said the there is no state in the South-West that is not owing gratuities. It is a serious matter.

“We met with the state government recently. They made us understand that the government does not have money for now and they promised that they would address the matter as soon as the state is buoyant financially.”

Wike hasn’t paid gratuities since 2015 –Rivers NUP chairman

In  Rivers State, pensioners said Governor Nyesom Wike had yet to pay gratuities since he assumed office in 2015.

The state NUP chairman, Collins Nwankwo who disclosed this during a   chat with one of our correspondents however said the governor had been consistent in the payment of monthly pension.

“The gratuities are not paid. Even though past administrations too owed, there were attempts to pay.

“But this very government since it came in  2015, it has not paid any gratuity. But they have been very consistent in the payment of monthly pension.

“But as far as gratuities, initial pension arrears, deaths benefits and all that are concerned, they have not paid anything,” Nwankwo stated.

Nwankwo said the situation had caused untold hardship to many of their families pointing out that some pensioners had been evicted from their homes for their inability to pay up their rents.

He stated, “It is very disheartening, it is very painful when you see pensioners dying for not getting what they are entitled to.  This thing is a constitutional matter. It is a legal thing.”

Efforts to reach the state Commissioner for Information and Communications,  Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, proved abortive as he did not answer calls put across to his mobile telephone by our correspondent.

Pensioners threaten to sue South West govs over consequential adjustment

The Secretary of the NUP in Oyo State, Olusegun Abatan, said pensioners were being owed pensions of between three and five years but he said incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde inherited the debt burden.

He commended Makinde whom he said he had been paying pensions regularly and had also been paying huge amount as gratuities every month.

Abatan who is also the Publicity Secretary of the NUP in the South-West said the only Lagos and Ondo states had effected the consequential adjustment of 33.4 per cent to pensions in their states.

He said that was why pensioners had given South-West governors till October ending to implement the minimum wage adjustment or be ready for court action.

PUNCH

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