By Steve Oko
PENSIONERS IN ABIA STATE HAVE THREATENED A SHOW-DOWN WITH GOVERNOR OKEZIE IKPEAZU-LED GOVERNMENT. This is as a result of months of unpaid pension which has plunged them into debts and misery.
The senior citizens who claimed that a number of their members have been forced to their early graves as a result hardship following the backlog of pension arrears, vowed to fight back with their last pint of blood.
In a communique issued after their monthly congresses in Umuahia, the pensioners claimed that the state owed them for a cumulative 37 months from 2014.
The pensioners also demanded immediate reversal of the take over of the payment of Local Government pension by the State Ministry of Finance, saying that the action is counterproductive.
Below is a full text of the communique obtained by Ikengaonline:
“COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE END OF THE STATE COUNCIL MEETING OF THE NIGERIA UNION OF PENSIONERS, NUP, ABIA STATE, AT THE MARGARET SCHOOL HALL, 40 AZIKIWE ROAD, UMUAHIA, ON THURSDAY, 3RD MARCH, 2022
- “The State Council in session holistically reviewed the very huge debt profile of the Abia State Government to the Pensioners of Abia state and noted it as:
(a) 2014 – 5 months (August to December)
(b) 2015 – 4 months (January to April)
(c) 2018 – 12 months (January to December)
(d) 2019 – 11 months (January to November)
(e) 2021 – 5 months (August to December)
TOTAL – 37 months
“It is relevant to note that in the six to seven months (January – June/July) pensions paid in 2021, Pensioners got 50% or less of their take home package. The Council is not comfortable that this pension slashing was a unilateral decision of Government which did not specify how long it will last or what will be done about the slashed percentage. These questions are begging for answers and the Council in session demands satisfactory clarification.
- “The Council seriously frowns at the present mode adopted by the Ministry of Finance in remitting check-off dues from the Local Government Pensioners since the Ministry took over the payment of Local Government pensions. This new arrangement shortchanges the Union and should be stopped.
- “The Council in session considers as very embarrassing and unacceptable the situation where some Pensioners who were verified and captured in the system are being skipped whenever pensions are paid. Moreover, when affected Pensioners report the omissions, the error is simply rectified without payment of the resulting arrears. This development seriously affects the amount of check-off dues earned by the Union. The Council demands that this trend should not continue.
- “The Council in session reviewed the recent take-over of Local Government pensions payment by the State Ministry of Finance and regrets that it has done more harm than good with its many hitches and inconsistencies. The Council is not satisfied and therefore demands that Local Government pensions payment should be returned to the newly reconstituted Local Government Pensions Board soonest.
- “The Council in session observes with serious concern that the Abia State Government has completely forgotten the issue of gratuity. The Council recalls that payment of gratuity was last made in 2002. This is very unfortunate and should be condemned by all well meaning citizens of God’s Own State. The Council calls attention of the Government to this serious lack of concern and insensitively and hereby demands that deliberate efforts should be made to restore the payment of gratuity to deserving Pensioners in the State.
- “The Council notes with much regret that the State Government has been very silent concerning the implementation of the Consequential Adjustments arising from the Federal Government Approval of Minimum Wage/Minimum Pension of April 2019. Pensioners of Abia State deserve to be accorded this sense of belonging. This Council in session demands that Government should set up the relevant Committee for purpose of the implementation.
- “The above review of the Pension and Gratuity Payment Position in Abia State makes it clear that the sector is in a grave crisis situation. The State Council of the Union of Pensioners, sitting here today, 3rd March, 2022, unanimously calls on the Abia State Government to immediately pronounce and declare a State of emergency in the Pensions and Gratuity Sector of the economy in order to effectively redeem the ugly image”.