Pensioners of Imo state origin currently undergoing renewed hurried verification and biometric data capture exercise to update their profiles in the various local government areas for the past six weeks, have expressed fear and raised alarm over the compulsory demand of their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) in addition to the individual bank account of the retirees as prerequisite for their data capture.
Also being queried by the elder statesmen and women are request for their blood groups, LGA certificates of identification, state government of origin. The requirements have put more stress on these fragile, gerontic persons. There is also greater pressure on their lean resources, as most of them are now forced to go to their LGAs at conservative costs of N1500 each day.
Some of the pensioners who spoke to our correspondent but who refused to insert their Bank Verification Numbers on the forms given to them explained that they were turned back from the exercise. Others claimed that they adhered to the instructions of their banks, arguing that the verification numbers were personal and ought not be revealed to any other person or authority, except for financial transactions.
When our correspondent visited Obowo local government area headquarters, Otoko on Tuesday October 23, 2018, it was a sorry sight as these old folks were running helter skelter, to get some of the documents as there was no pre-information of the data and requirements for the exercise which was alleged to have been carried out quietly in Orlu senatorial zone in the past six weeks.
Our investigation revealed that the state government ordered for the personal verification of the pensioners which had been done severally and now with the biometric data capture using an un-named consultant without prior information or adequate provision for the welfare or security of these elder statesmen, most of who are either on wheel-chairs or bedridden.
Some of the affected persons who may be skipped as ghosts are alleged to be receiving medical treatment overseas, while those in hospitals in Nigeria were hurriedly rushed in ambulances or private vehicles to the verification centres, where neither shelter nor seats were provided.
The embittered pensioners stated that the consultants spared more time and adequate security to carry out the exercise in Orlu area. They chose one day each for the local governments in Okigwe zone where there are about 63 wards, whereas they could not supervise more than three or four wards a day.
Those who could not be captured in their local government areas were not given another opportunity but only directed to show up at the next council area thereby causing the pensioners extra stress, hazards and additional transport fares, when they have not been paid a dime for several months.
It would be recalled that pensioner’s palaver had become a recurring decimal in the state. This administration introduced a laudable mode of payment that was stress free for the retirees which was never faulted, but only to be aborted for reasons best known to government.
Perhaps as a punitive measure for the uncompromising posture of the retirees to abide by official demand, the pensioners are of the view that the current exercise is punitive and unnecessary as all the required documents are in government files.
The letter stipulates that its only the Auditor General of the state that is authorized to collect data on pensions matters and perhaps that this is another ploy to delay payment of pensions and gratuity of Imo pensioners or to ensure that the present trench of Paris Club Refund released to states by federal government for payment of arrears of salaries and pensions, is not applied for these purposes as have been the case in previous releases.
When contacted on the issues connected with the verification and data collection, the Secretary to the Local Government Pensions Board, Lady Joy Uwakwe, stated that she is not involved in the exercise and it is an adhoc committee appointed by the government that is on the job.
On his part, the Head of Service, Mr Callistus Ekenze, stated that “government cannot take any step that is bad or dubious to the public. Any step taken by government is for the good of the people.