Apologises, sets new date
Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, has given explanations why he was unable to clear the accumulated pension arrears of retirees in the state before the end of December 2023 contrary to his earlier promise.
According to the Governor, the enormity of funds required which was twice bigger than he had imagined constrained him from fulfilling the promise.
Otti who made the explanation during his New Year message, however, apologised, and promised to live up to expectations before the end of the first quarter of the year.
Recall that Otti had during his inaugural speech promised to wipe off pension arrears before the end of December 2023.
Before Otti came on board, Abia pensioners were owed up to 48 months of arrears by past administrations leading to series of protests and public processions by the senior citizens, some of who had died as a result of hardship.
Otti during the live statewide broadcast said: “Based on the figures available to us , we had arranged the funds to make good this promise, however, before making the payment we decided to conduct a digital verification of the pensioners , to our alter shock, we found that there were pensioners who had been owed since 2014.
“At the end of the exercise, just a week ago, the total figure required for the payment was twice the amount we had provided . While we continue to engage the National Union of Pensioners ,we believe we will be able to make the payment before the end of the first quarter of this New Year. If required, we may go back to the House of Assembly for necessary approval to ensure that this payment is made.”
The Governor who entitled his speech, ‘A journey of great expectations,’ announced that “plans are almost concluded for the upward review of workers’ salaries to fit into the prevailing economic realities.”
“We shall review the salaries of all the employees upwards to reflect economic realities of the time. Work on it is on the final stages.”
He further informed that his Government would continue its strategic investments on education and health sectors.
“Our commitment is to close the funding gap in education and health in the first instance and then see that funds are channeled to meet the most pressing need of the sectors.”
The Governor revealed that he would seek an international body of advisers known as Abia Global Economic Advisory Board (GEAB) made up of accomplished internationally recognised experts from across the globe, “who will help in our journey to take our State to the world as a preferred investment destination.”
Continuing he maintained that technology which has been at the heart of the transformation and reform agenda of the government shall move to a new gear in 2024 starting with the digitalisation of the operation of the public institutions for ease of access and efficiency. He added that, “We shall also leverage the advantages of technology to drive State wide human capital development, economic empowerment for the youths and most importantly, job creation .”
He listed improved security, road infrastructure, regular payment of salaries, reinvigoration of the health sector, restoration of security, effective urban management, support to the economically vulnerable among other achievements speak volume that he is on a mission to restore and rebuild.
The Governor noted that a whooping 84 percent of the 2024 budget has been earmarked for capital project which includes rebuilding and remodeling of schools and hospitals as well as well as build a world class health village to stem the tide of medical tourism.
The state chief executive noted that part of the 2024 budget will also be invested in critical sectors to spur economic growth,creat employment opportunities and drive local businesses.
Describing the year 2023 as “a year of watershed in the political history of the State,” Otti thanked “all who contributed in reshaping the political direction of the State which paved way for the fresh air being inhaled by Abians.”
He encouraged residents of the state to sustain their support by paying their taxes as well as cooperating with security agencies in the state to achieve the needed security.
Gov. Otti predicted brighter future for the state and urged residents to be hopeful.