-Insists over 10 thousand pensioners unpaid
-Wants payment returned to AG’s office
The pitiable plight of pensioners and civil servants in Imo state who have been subjected to series of unfruitful verification exercises by the Governor Hope Uzodinma administration has been condemned in very strong terms by a cross section of Imo people including Comrade Festus Agba, immediate past Chairman of Association of Retired Permanent Secretaries who described the verification exercises as frivolous, diversionary and fraudulent.
It would be recalled that the Uzodinma administration shortly after assuming office subjected Imo pensioners and civil servants to series of verification exercise said to have been conducted by experts and consultants hired by the state government to ostensibly sanitize the system and ensure prompt payment of salaries and pensions.
Shortly after the orchestrated exercises held at different venues including the various local government council headquarters, Imo International Convention Centre (IICC) , Office of the Head Service , etc, the state government announced that, it had with the assistance of the eagle-eyed consultants who conducted the extremely successful exercises sanitized the system and expunged the names of thousands of ghost workers from the nominal roll. “The state government is now saving the sum of almost N2b monthly that was formerly frittered away by corrupt civil servants and their collaborators in the past administration.”
A pensioner who spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity said, “ we heaved sighs of relief on hearing the statement which has turned out to be the height of deceit and insensitivity. We expected the Uzodinma administration to channel the N2b it claimed to be saving monthly towards setting off arrears of pensions and gratuity of retirees but unfortunately, some of us are still owed more than 2 years arrears of pension while two of my children who should be assisting me also said that they have not been paid salaries for the past 18 months. Is that not the height of wickedness?”.
Commenting on the development, Comrade Agba, berated the state government for hiring the so-called experts and consultants to handle the collation and payment of pensions and salaries stressing that, “it is only the office of the Accountant General and the Sub Treasury that are legally saddled with the such responsibility, pointing out that those who collate and pay should be accessible to those they are paying”.
“Ex-Governor Achike Udenwa was a Chartered Accountant but he did not for any reason dabble into the payment of salaries and pensions or the payroll of the civil service.
But in the present dispensation, when you talk or complain about salaries and pensions, it is the Commissioner for Information, Declan Emelumba that replies instead of the Commissioner for Finance.
This is a regrettable aberration, “in our time, when a budget is passed, you don’t need the consent of the Governor to implement your vote because you are implementing a law. It is like a high court judge seeking the governor’s approval before delivering judgment in a case before him.”
“When I said that about 10.000 pensioners were being owed their statutory entitlements, they attacked me. But ex-governor Ihedioha said his administration verified 48,000 pensioners and eventually cleared 20,000. If you calculate 80% of the figure he gave, you will get almost the figure I quoted. All the same even if it is 5,000 pensioners that are owed, is a fair deal?”
The vocal retired permanent secretary pulled the rug off the state government’s claim that those owed arrears of pensions and salaries are those who have issues with their BVNs stressing that no law makes it mandatory that pensioners must be paid through banks, because a retiree can also receive his pension from the Sub Treasury. The law also states that the retiree must be paid his pension for the first five years whether he is dead or alive, hence some of the verification exercises are not necessary.
Responding to a question, Comrade Agba said, the solution to the nagging problem is to revert all issues about payment of pensions and gratuity to the office of the Accountant General and the Sub Treasury expect there are things they are hiding from the public”.