By Ikhili Monday EBALU, Benin City
Local government pensioners in Edo State, yesterday, protested non-payment of their entitlements as they visited the Edo State Government House where Deputy Governor Phillip Shaibu addressed their grievances.
The protest later became a congenial meeting as both parties reached a truce on the modalities of the government’s ongoing efforts to offset their outstanding arrears and set the tone for sustainable payment process.
They also asked for settlement of their outstanding pension arrears, enrolment of newly retired pensioners, harmonisation of their pensions, and regular payments of their monthly pensions.
They also alleged that the bailout funds from the federal government had been used to pay the state pensioners but the local government pensioners were still being owed arrears.
Addressing the pensioners on behalf of Governor Godwin Obaseki, Deputy Governor Phillip Shaibu noted that the government felt it was lawful for them to express their grievances, as the Pensioners Association was to serve as a mediator between the state government and the pensioners.
He said: “This is not the first time we are talking. The last time, both State and Local Government pensioners came. We discussed the issue of bailout, how it would be used and we had another meeting with the governor on it. Today, the issue of state has already been resolved. For state pensioners that have been captured, before the Governor or Deputy Governor receives their salary, they are the first to be paid. They are paid before even workers in the civil service get their salaries”.
He, however, rued the fact that the Edo State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners was not present at the protest because the state did not owe any money to the pensioners.
Explaining, he revealed that since 2008, Local Governments had been in charge of their internally generated revenue, so they had also been in charge of their workers’ pensions.
Nevertheless, the state had been responsible for paying the pensions of its workers and had already done so with the bailout funds from the federal government, while also putting modalities in place for a sustainable method of paying the pensioners their entitlements and gratuities.
“We relied heavily on oil boon before, and so corruption spoiled the payment process. Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) will be resurrected so that pensioners can be paid directly. We are trying to boost your IGR so that you can pay yourselves. We will be in a meeting with your leaders today as it is not in our interest to see our elderly ones suffer,” he said.
Continuing, he noted that Governor Obaseki had already set about duplicating the same system at the state level into the local government level because the government would not tolerate fraud and the state government could not remain aloof while the local government pensioners suffered.
“So we need to help Local Governments to establish what we did at the state level so that you can pay your salary arrears and pensioners before even those that are working. The governor is determined to eradicate owing of pension and he is concerned,” he said.