Delta retirees demand entitlements
•We spend over N1.3bn monthly on pensioners, says Okowa
The Association of Contributory Retirees (ACR), Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Delta State Council, has gone spiritual to compel Delta State Government to pay over N100 billion pension benefits owed retirees in the state.
The state’s vice chairman, Anthony Osanekwu, who disclosed this in an interview with The Guardian in Asaba, said the association had gone to God to seek redress for non-payment of the pension benefits owed retirees of the state.
He said the decision was taken because government has failed to listen to the voice of reasons, even as all legal means applied to get their benefits failed.
While lamenting non-payment of their pension benefits at the rate of 50 percent as stipulated by law, Osanekwu, who turned farmer, declared that the association had gone to God’s court in place of the law court to seek redress because of the assurance that “we will get victory at the end of the day.
“We are not taking the state government to law court because we will not win. Delta is a secular state, no one takes the government to court here and thinks of winning, but we have gone to God’s court and very soon He will decide for the government to pay us our entitlements.
On efforts so far made to get the pension benefits from the government, Osanekwu further explained: “We have carried out peaceful protests severally with placards, we have written series of letters to governor Okowa since he came on board, and also dragged the government to EFCC. Could you believe EFCC dribbled us here and there, asking us questions as if we were the accused persons? But in the end, EFCC said the matter was an administrative matter. So, we just laughed because God knows what happened”.
The vice-chairman, who expressed concern over the operations of the pension scheme, claimed that: “The immediate past Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan plunged us into the pit by his deliberate refusal to pay government’s 10 per cent counterpart funds which was accumulating, while workers seven per cent was paid in full but deducted and used as IGR as if it was government money”.
To pursue the matter further, he said “ACR petitioned the governor via a letter dated February 24, 2021, that the approve harmonisation review of the accrued pension benefits from N7,500 to N18,000 minimum wage for workers and retirees, though appreciated, but we are disillusioned and becoming restive over several inadvertent calculations made to reduce the benefits, to save funds for government and conversely short-change the retirees, otherwise contributory pension scheme should have been harmonised to run as one scheme as advised by the National Pension Commission, PenCom.”
The retirees in the letter signed by ACR State Chairman, Agbaka Isaiah, and State Secretary, Okproma Joseph, also urged the government to direct the Bureau of State Pension to commence the payment of the difference between the N7, 500 and N18, 000 minimum wage to the retirees that had earlier been paid with N7,500, as well as consider the regular monthly release of N300 million for the pensioners.
Meanwhile, the state retirees’ vice chairman revealed that one-third of retirees had died while waiting for their pension benefits in the last few years.
According to him, “the Isse Uku units chairman just died last month just like so many others”.
He attributed their death to lack of funds which, to him, deprived them of access to good health facilities to cure the ailments that befall them.
“We spent all our useful age working for the government, but now look at what they are paying us with, no proper feeding, no good health, and we are dying like fowls”, he lamented.
Meanwhile, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has disclosed that the state government spends over N1.3 billion monthly servicing pension obligations to its retirees.
Speaking through the Chief Economic Adviser to the Governor, Dr. Kingsley Eze Emu, the government disclosed efforts made by the state to clear the N181 billion pension liabilities inherited by the previous administration.
He said: “We are in the middle of the pension review committee. We inherited N181 billion. We did a joint review with organised labour and we did a reconciliation that saved the state about N95 billion. Less than N80 billion was left after the reconciliation with labour. That is a landmark achievement. That is the first move.
“The second move is that government has been paying consistently on a monthly basis about N1.3 billion. We have settled with labour. The issues that you hear are issues that border on reflecting minimum wage on the pension bill, not that we are not paying. Labour will tell you they are happy with the government. Apart from the huge reduction in the liabilities, what we owe now should not even be up to N50 billion in arrears of determined benefits over the years up to 2011.”
He said there were issues with the initial computation as the state had reduced the debt after a review with labour by as much as 50 per cent.
“Yes, something was wrong. The parameters used for computations were wrong. In computing pension, we use date of entry, date of birth and then net pay. This means that age is a factor. That computation assumed a 45-year compulsory retirement age instead of 60 years. So it was building on pension even while you are earning. That’s double counting. Which was wrong.
“Secondly, they projected salary increase in the programme and that is not what the process says. In 2011, some people who were not supposed to be on the scheme were included. That is double counting. There was projected earning which should not be, it was projected Retirement Savings Account (RSA). So the parameters were wrong.”
“That was the first thing that HR consultants, which was engaged to evaluate the liabilities saw. We have to give so much credit to labour and all those who participated because the will power to accept the truth on the part of labour is remarkable.
What they were looking at was their bottom line so long as they were not shortchanged at the end of the day. As we move on, all the gaps and the little issues that have not been addressed will be addressed. So, on pension, Delta is one of the foremost states that is meeting its pension obligations and even addressing arrears,” he said.
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