How Okorocha’s Appointees Messed Up Pension Matters

Majority of the overstretched or beleaguered and starved Imo pensioners can now heave a sigh of relief as the Rebuild Imo Government of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, in keeping to his promise and marching his words with action by midnight of Wednesday, October 16, 2019, made good his vows, when he began remitting two months pension arrears through various bank accounts to the embattled elder statesmen and women.

Sources reveal that many of the pensioners started receiving alerts for payment of September 2019, pensions and later about 4am on Thursday, October 17, they received alert for the August 2019 payment, though not without discrepancies. As some of the elder statesmen affirm they received their due pay, others complained of short payments.

However, there have been mixed reactions over the promise fulfilled but the general consensus was kudos and commendations for the Imo State Governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioh, for hearkening to the cries of these elderly statesmen who are being owed various sum of arrears, spanning from 12 to 67 months and have been languishing in abject penury in the last eight years.

Most callers to a radio programme yesterday morning gave kudos to the Governor for marching his words with action but queried why the new administration could not effect full payment of the five months it incurred before delving into the huge arrears accumulated by past regimes including the “eight years of the mesmeric rescue mission regime”. Others prayed that there should be no percentage cut after the three months long delay, between July-October, and the attendant mother of all biometric verification exercise.

Suffice this to say that the Governor of Imo State, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, in keeping with due process, accountability and patriotism, had by 8am on October 17, 2019, addressed the people of Imo on the financial state and other matters as they relate to the nagging pension palaver.

He disclosed that the state loss between 3-400 million on monthly pensions to a cartel whereas we were aware that before the coming on board of the Owelle government, pension bills were less than N500 million.

It would be recalled that it was Governor Okorocha, who raised the first alarm over pension bloated bills for which he carried several tortuous biometric verification exercises and deviced various modes of payment.

In view of the huge bill of that era, he constituted a committee on pension matters in which he appointed one Hon. Ikenna Eme and Chief Simeon Iwunze, to work with some labour and trade union officials to harmonize pensions and mode of payment. It was that committee that came up with the 70% and 30% formula, during which the pensioners were short-changed, while many beneficiaries were omitted in the subsequent incoherent exercise and to date, nobody could account for the proceeds of the 30% deduction.

It would be recalled that on one occasion, at one of the numerous verification exercises at IICC, Owerri, Governor Okorocha announced publicly the arrest of some suspects connected with the fraud in the pensions scam but curiously those arrested were later released without trial.

Even his own appointee as pension fund administrator, Barr Chinyere Uwandu, was indicted in the pension fraud that rocked the state but rather than prosecution, she was elevated and offered higher public office, implying that the Governors are culpable masterminds of the malfeasances that take place in the management of pension fund.

More worrisome is the role of the pensioners, who while in active services made sure that issues affecting pension fund administration are shrouded in top secrecy. It is not a mere speculation to state that in our part of the world, pension fund administrators and managers are the wealthiest set of public servants.

It goes to suggest that in order or bid to sustain their fraudulent activities of tempering with the pension fund, like Muhammadu Maina allegedly did, these pension administrators lure the Governors and their political appointees into mis-managing, misappropriating pension fund. If not, why is it that pension fund which should ordinarily be money’s saved from the salaries of public servants, constitute a huge burden to the Governors that they emphasize more on payment of taxation or imposition of sundry levies, to meet pension payment?

It is only now and in our state Imo that pension fund has become an albatross, a huge burden and an over-bearing pressure on the Governors, who hardly tell us the truth.