By; VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Association of Cross River State Local Government Pensioners has vowed to shut down government activities within the next one month if the state government refuses to pay their entitlements.
This will be achieved as its entire 5,600 members would be mobilised to occupy and shut down Calabar, the state capital until their demands were met
The ultimatum was given by the chairman of the Association, Comrade Bassey Okosin while addressing newsmen in Calabar on Tuesday.
He stated that the pension board if properly managed, could properly manage itself without assistance from the “Paris Club Refunds, bailouts or any other such funds”.
Okosin said over N9 billion is being owed as pensions and gratuity since 2007.
“We will mobilize all our 5, 600 members from the 18 local government of the state. We will sleep in the governor’s office, in the house of assembly. We will live with the governor, the Speaker, the ministries, departments and all the relevant agencies until they give us our money so we can go. We have taken a decision to pack our loads to live in all the offices that are responsible for the payment of these entitlements until further notice”.
“This is not a threat but likely going to happen in the next one month. We use this medium to appeal to government and all our relations based in Calabar to make adequate arrangements for our needs. It is our belief that all will prefer to take care of us this way than pay for us to take care of ourselves, he said”.
A statement by the chairman made available to reporters, read in parts, “in a press release credited to the Commissioner for Finance, it was stated clearly that the bailout funds and the Paris Club Refund was used among others in the payment of arrears of pension and gratuity in favour of pensioners in the state.
“My response to this will be restricted to local government pensioners and I speak on good authority that up till today not even a dime has been paid to any local government pensioner in the state in the name of pension arrears nor gratuity from the bailout nor Paris Club Refund. All efforts made in this direction have been ignored by the relevant agencies of government.
“About 600 names of local government pensioners that were omitted by the consultant during the 2016 personnel audit exercise is still outstanding. This was deliberate to enable the consultant collect their percentages, which was supposed to be based on savings made from the exercise.
“The elderly men and women were deprived their pension for a period ranging from two to six months as a result of that exercise. Every documentation/verification of those names have been done for over a year now but nobody appeared to bother about it. This is different from arrears of pension generated by administrative bottleneck, where a person is retired and the process of computing entitlement will linger for between 6 months to two years. When eventually it is ready for payment. Only the current month is paid, while the rest is classified as outstanding arrears”.
“As at today, over #9 billion is outstanding in respect of arrears of pension and gratuity covering the period 2007 to 2018 in favour of local government pensioners. They have been denied these entitlement on account of lack of funds, the bailout fund and Paris Club Refund we are told those not include local government pensioners and no reason has been advanced for this, but we still expect that the right thing will be done alleviate the suffering of our members”.
“Where does the local government pensioners belong? Which fund is expected to clear these outstanding arrears? Is local government pensioners not part of this state? If so why disparities when it comes to their welfare, whereas welfare of other services is given without stress. That of local government pensioners must always have one excuse or the other, he added”.
“We however appreciate governor Ben Ayade in ensuring pensioners are paid regularly and up to date and pray that it should be sustained. We use this medium to also observe that while employment had stopped for over five years now, retirement rather increases at the average of 35 retirees per month.
“The nominal roll has increased to 5, 600 pensioners with a corresponding pension bill of over N342 million. Given the steady increase in number of retirees subvention to the pension board should have monthly increase to take care of the increases. Gratuity fund similar to that proposed for the state should be set up from where monthly remittances should be made to cater for this aspect of entitlement for local government pensioners.