By Elizabeth Uwandu
UMUAHIA—Pensioners in Abia State, under the aegis of Abia State Civil/Public Service Pensioners Association have described the recent statement credited to former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, that he didn’t owe pensioners while serving as governor of the state as “blatant lie.”
The pensioners who spoke during an interactive meeting with Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, at Umuahia called on Kalu to stop playing politics with pension payments in the state.
According to the leader of the group, Chief Emmanuel Okparanta, “We were shocked to hear Dr Kalu tell Nigerians that he never owed salaries and pensions during his tenure in office, whereas we are aware that most of the issues with pensions and salaries in Abia State started during his tenure.
“We still have pension outstanding from 2002 to 2007 and the succeeding Ochendo administration inherited the payments, paid some of it and passed on the remaining to the Ikpeazu administration.
“It was also under Kalu’s administration that the local government system in Abia State was bastardized. For instance, Aba North Local Government owed workers more than one year salaries even after the local government was sunk into huge bank loans.”
In his address to the pensioners, Chief Okiyi appealed for patience from the pensioners to enable the government stabilize internally generated revenue in the state through the introduction of technology that will minimize revenue leakages and ensure regular payment of salaries and pensions.
He said: “The government of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is concerned about pension outstanding and we are determined to ensure that the problem is quickly solved to enable our senior citizens enjoy their retirement benefits. Today we have ensured that MDAs that make up more than 70% of our workforce are up to date on salary payments and the next stop is to ensure that pensioners and teachers are also up to date. This government is determined to defeat that challenge of salary and pension outstanding the same thoughtful and systematic way it defeated the challenge of Ukwu Mango Ariaria and Aba Road Umuahia”.
“We are happy that you have confirmed receiving two months of payments and expect that you will receive the 3rd month payment, all within 30 days, as the governor has deposited the required funds into the relevant pension account. It will only be a matter of time for us to solve all the issues around Pensions and teachers salaries and the plan is to ensure that at least every month pensioners receive salary as MDAs are receiving salaries until we are able to liquidate the outstanding and stabilize the payment system”
Continuing, the Commssioner stated that as part of long term solution to the Pension challenge in the state, the government is negotiating with Pension solution providers to establish a contributory pension scheme that will ensure that challenges of the past are not passed on to the next generation of pensioners.
In response to the address of the Commissioner, the Chairman of the association, Dr Okparanta, thanked the Governor for transparently handling the affairs of the state, keeping his promise of paying at least 3 months outstanding and urged him to harmonize “old and new pensioners payment in the state”.
He assured that the members will continue to support the administration of Dr Ikpeazu to succeed in his development efforts in the state.