Akwa Ibom Pensioners Starved Despite Huge Cash Flow To State Coffers
By Ofonime Honesty
Many state governments in Nigeria including Akwa Ibom are not channeling the monthly accrued allocation from the federal government, Internally Generated Revenue, Paris Club Loan Refunds and bailout funds into offseting the backlog of owed pensions, investigations reveal.
Findings by our correspondent corroborates claims by social advocacy group, BudgIT, that Akwa Ibom State which earns the highest monthly allocation from federal government owes retirees a backlog of pensions totalling 12 months, as at September 2018.
BudgIT, in a statement signed by its Communications Director, Ayomide Faleye, noted that the survey was aimed at ascertaining the frequency and magnitude of challenges civil servants and pensioners are encountering. It focused on three different categories of workers in all 36 states namely: primary and secondary school teachers, state midwives and state secretariat workers.
Akwa Ibom was grouped alongside Delta, Imo, Abia, Osun, Plateau, Bayelsa, Ekiti and 10 other states that owe pensioners entitlement ranging from 1 month to 36 months and above.
Our reporter uncovered that while the incumbent state government in the state is currently not owing civil servants, retirees have continued to protest their plight even as Governor Udom Emmanuel insists that he is not owing them.
The state has so far received three tranches of the Paris Club Refunds from the federal government. It received N25.98 Billion, N10 Billion and N10 Billion in June 2017, July 2017 and December 2017, respectively.
Directives from the presidency that the funds be used in offsetting bills including pension arrears yielded no result.
The state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) has remained tight-lipped on the issue.
The state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has also not reacted to claims by some civil servants that they don’t receive prompt salaries, not duly promoted or not paid promotion arears.
In January 2017, protesting next-of-kins of primary school teachers died in active service or on retirement without receiving their pensions and gratuities since 1991 were beaten and arrested by police on the alleged orders of Governor Udom Emmanuel. They were tortured and detained till January 24th, 2017, before being arraigned in court by government.
The case was however dismissed in court on February 26, 2018, for lack of merit.
State government owned tertiary institutions, Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Akwa Ibom State College of Education and Akwa Ibom State University have in recent times been enmeshed in strike actions and staff protests over unpaid salaries and other entitlements.
(C) The Atlantic Observer Newspaper