Pensioners demand payment of eight years arrears in C/River

THE Association of Cross River State Local Government Pensioners have called on the state government to, as a matter of urgency, pay outstanding arrears of pensions and gratuities owed local government pensioners for the past eight years.

Chairman of the association, Comrade Okosin Bassey, who made the call in a statement made available to the Nigerian Tribune in Calabar, wondered why a civil servant would be subjected to untold hardship after 35 years of service.

Bassey also said that efforts should be made to stop the apathy in the payment of monthly pension to the state and Local government retirees.

This is even as he frowned at the activities of the consultants contracted by the state government to verify records of pensioners.

He described the ongoing verification exercise of local government pensioners handled by consultants as faulty and misleading, adding that the exercise had created confusion in pension administration in the state.

Bassey said, “The organisers rushed to the radio to announce verification date and venue when they were not ready for the exercise. As a result, these elderly men and women are dragged from their homes, visiting locations, hospitals, some with walking support, to the venue and at the time stipulated.

“In most cases, two days after, the consultants would not be found for the exercise. Some of the pensioners will end up in the hospitals and some who can no longer manage themselves returned home. And by the time the consultants will finally appear, most of the pensioners have dispersed”

Bassey said over 600 of the 4,120 pensioners had their data wrongly supplied to the banks by the consultants, adding that the consultants had bluntly refused to include the names of over 600 pensioners who were newly retired between the months of June to December, 2016 for payment of pension allowances.

According to him, the overall consequences of all of these are that the whole exercise has gone contrary to the original intention of government.

We have refused to be persuaded to believing that the whole exercise was intended to eliminate local government pensioners in the state tactically and we also refused to say that the creator will hold those responsible for the death of over 28 of our members within this period through man’s inhumanity to man.’’

He said that the association had been making presentation to all stakeholders; various fora and MDAs on the plight of local government pensioners, but no reasonable response had been achieved.

The association’s chairman, however, vowed that no longer would pensioner attend any further verification exercise organised by the consultants.

He urged the Ministry of Local Government Affairs and Local Government Pensions Board to, as a matter of urgency implement the special pension model, which he said, would facilitate the tracing and of the roots or sources of every pensioner.

Bassey also urged the state government to abrogate the use of consultants to verify local government pay roll. In its place, he said Ministry of Local Government Affairs, Department of Establishment, Local Government Pensions Board, Office of the Auditor-General for Local Governments, and the Association of Local Government Pensioners be saddled with the responsibility, and should be held responsible where there were doubts as regards pension bills.

He said efforts should be made to pay outstanding pensions arising from consultants’ erroneous information to the banks which resulted to failed transactions of between two to seven months to the affected pensioners, some of whose conditions are very deplorable.

Responding to the issues raised by the pensioners, one of the consultants, Ben Tawo described the allegations by the pensioners as unfounded.

He said, “We don’t include names, we only work with names that are given to us by pensions Board, all we are doing is verification and it means we must see the person face to face to authenticate whether the person is a pensioner or not.”