The Edo state government has restated its commitment to improving the welfare of retired workers in the state.
The Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, gave the assurance when he received a team from the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Edo state chapter at the Government House in Benin City, the state capital.
Obaseki said the state government will ensure a long lasting solution to all the pension related disputes, adding that all outstanding allowances owed the retired workers will be cleared before the end of 2017.
“Where are those who already earn pension, we have them. What are they earning is it realistic, that is what we call harmonisation, which we have to deal with.
“But more importantly where are those who have worked and have not gotten even pension or gratuity, shouldn’t we deal with those ones first.
“2015, 2014, 2013 to 2012, I am hoping that by the end of this year I will be current”, he said.
The governor also insisted that local government pensioners are not included in the bailout package.
“I cannot run local government by bailout, money that comes from Abuja, yes we use it to pay teachers. How much is generated as revenues, government revenues can only be collected by government officials so that we can account for.
“Those revenues are what we use to pay salaries, pay pension and do the work of the local government”, he stated.
The Nigerian Union of Pensioners in Imo State on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest against the Imo state government over alleged unpaid entitlements and attitude of the government towards the pensioners.
The residents took to the streets of Owerri, the state’s capital carrying placards with various inscriptions.
They blocked the popular Okigwe- Government house roundabout, causing heavy traffic gridlock.
They said the protest was a warning that would give birth to a bigger protest if the state government failed to attend to their plight.
All efforts by security operatives to calm them down and allow free passage of vehicles failed.
Addressing reporters, the Imo state chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Gideon Ezeji said his members were tired of ‘continued failed promises’ by the state government on the payment of their pension arrears.
He said several attempts to meet with the state government to discuss the issue amicably had always been futile, insisting that if the Government does not begin immediate payment of the arrears, they would remain on the streets.
Meanwhile, the Imo State Commissioner for Internally Generated Revenue and Pension Matters, Vitalis Ajumbe, appealed to the protesting residents to be patient with the state government as all measures were already put in place to commence the payment of pensioners in the state.
He said the issue confronting the government was the huge wage bill of pensioners in the state and the inaccurate data of all pensioners in the state.
The Imo State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners has expressed disappointment over the alleged neglect and failed promises of the Imo State government as regards unpaid entitlements ranging from pension arrears, gratuities and none harmonization of pensions.
At a press briefing in Owerri the Imo State capital, the Imo State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Mr Gideon Ezeji, also debunked claims by the state government that they were paid 12 years pension arrears in 2011.
He said the non-payment of their entitlement has brought so much untold hardship on its members as most of them are bedridden following the inability to pay hospital bills.
The Union also complained of the verification exercise by the state government as a calculated attempt to delay the payment of pensioners in the state and promised to embark on a street protest if the state government doesn’t fulfill its promises.
Meanwhile, the Imo State Commissioner on IGR and Pension Matters, Vitalis Ajumbe, said the state government has commenced payment of some cadre of pensioners but the major challenge facing the government on the issue of pensioners is the accurate data of pensioners in the state which has made the government to repeat verification exercise and also introduce a new data form for proper documentation and collation.
He however appealed to the pensioners to be patient as the Okorocha-led administration is aware of their plights.
The Nigerian Union Of Pensioners, NUP, has raised an alarm over the non-payment of the 33 per cent pension increase and arrears for its members by the federal and state governments.
Addressing journalists at the Labour House in Abuja, the National President of the union, Dr Abel Afolayan, explained that whereas the pension increase had been implemented for their military counterparts, civil pensioners are yet to start benefitting from it.
Dr Afolayan said that the union is planning a nationwide protest on account of this, with the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress.
The Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Abia State chapter, has made an appeal to Governor Theodore Orji to intervene in some certain areas of their needs which requires utmost attention.
During a courtesy call at Government House, Umuahia, The chairman of the state union, Chidikaobi Abarikwu, thanked the Governor for the efforts made by the administration to ensure that retirees in the state are paid regularly, but called on him to look into isolated payment of gratuities for some of their members.
Governor Orji, who also is a retiree, while responding to some of their needs, acknowledged them for making him the patron of the Union and promised that he would look into their matter urgently to make sure they get their rights.
The Governor also hinted that his administration had always made prompt and regular payments to pensioners.
He disclosed that their members, whose gratuities were a bit delayed, belong to parastatals that ought to sustain itself, but promised that the State government would assist as soon as possible.
He, however, urged them to support the government and not to allow distracters to infiltrate their camp.