Wike owing living, dead pensioners over N70bn - Union




 By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

Pensioners in Rivers State have reminded to Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike that his administration has pension liabilities of over N70 billion on its neck for their living and dead members.

The pensioners gave the reminder following recent assertion by Wike that his administration is not owing pension and gratuities.

But speaking under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), the retirees, in an open letter to Wike, urged him to consider their predicament and pay the outstanding pension.

In the letter which was jointly signed by State Chairman, Comrade Collins I. Nwankwo and Secretary, Comrade Joseph J. Agbo, the pensioners expressed appreciation to Governor Wike for the prompt payment of their monthly pension allowance.

But they added that government officials should not misconstrue the payment of monthly pension allowances to mean that all pension liabilities had been paid.

In addition, the union noted that since he has not paid death benefits of deceased pensioners since he came to office in 2015, Wike’s government is owing the dead and the living.

“For further explanation, what government pays is monthly pension allowance, leaving the major ones”, the pensioners said while urging the governor to ‘right the wrongs’ and consider the plight of the aged pensioners who, they said, are indigenes of the state.

While adding that pension is a right and not a privilege, the Union affirmed that their demand is backed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 173(3), which provided that ‘pensions shall be reviewed every five years or together with any Federal Civil Service Salary reviews, whichever is earlier’.

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According to them “It is therefore inhuman for any person who had sworn to the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria to deny Pensioners of their entitlements”, they declared.

Some of the unpaid entitlements, according to the Union, include none-payment of gratuities since April, 2015 to date; non-payment accrued initial pension arrears since April, 2015 to date and 6% review of pension rates, Circular No. SWL/S10-1/S.164/289 dated 5th August, 2010.

“15% Review of Pension rates SWL/S10-1/S.164/289 dated 5th August, 2010.  On February, 14th, 2002, the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation issued a circular No. PNA 32760/S.19/T1/31 dated 14th February, 2003, transferring the responsibilities of payment of monthly pension allowance of retired primary school teachers to their respective state governments.  All other state governments had implemented this circular except Rivers State.

“The National Incomes and Wages Commission, Abuja, in October, 2010 issued a circular on increase of pension rate of 33%. This circular has not been implemented by the Rivers State government.

“Since the coming of this administration, the state equally has not paid death benefits of deceased pensioners, that in effect means, that the state government is owing the dead and the living.

“Harmonization of pension earnings.  Presently, the state government owes more than 70 Billion Naira on pension liabilities”, the Union stated.

The pensioners said they are not unaware of the financial burden of the state government because of what they called competing political demands on the state resources, but suggested they would be willing to accept installment payments.

“The drugs required by aged pensioners are expensive and can only be bought with money, even at Government Hospitals”, the Union said.

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