By Ike Uchechukwu
CALABAR—CROSS River State local government pensioners have told Governor Ben Ayade, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly and relatives to prepare for them (pensioners), as they will be occupying Calabar, the state capital, over N9 billion owed them.
Speaking on the platform of Association of Cross River State Local Government Pensioners, they gave the state government a one-month ultimatum to pay their entitlements else their entire 5,600-strong membership will occupy and shut down Calabar, the capital city.
Chairman of the association, Mr. Bassey Okosin, addressing journalists in Calabar yesterday, said the pension board, if properly managed, can exist without assistance from Paris Club refunds, bailouts or any other such funds.
Okosin said over N9 billion is them owed in pensions and gratuity since 2007.
His words: “We will mobilise all our 5,600 members from the 18 local government areas of the state. We will sleep in the Governor’s Office and state House of Assembly.
“We will live with the Governor, the Speaker, the ministries, departments and all the relevant agencies until they give us our money.
“We have taken a decision to pack our loads and live in all the offices responsible for the payment of these entitlements until further notice. This is not a threat.
“We use this medium to appeal to government and all our relations based in Calabar to make adequate arrangements for our needs.”
…fault Finance Commissioner’s claims
He noted further that “in a statement credited to the Commissioner for Finance, it was stated clearly that the bailout funds and the Paris Club refund were used, among others, in the payment of arrears of pension and gratuity.
“Till today, not even a dime has been paid to any local government pensioner in the state in the name of pension arrears or gratuity from the bailout or Paris Club refund.
“About 600 names of local government pensioners that were omitted by the consultant during the 2016 personnel audit exercise are still outstanding.
“This was deliberate, to enable the consultant collect their percentages, which was supposed to be based on savings made from the exercise.
“The elderly men and women were deprived of their pension for two to six months as a result of that exercise.
“Every documentation/verification of those names has been done for over a year now, but nobody appeared to bother about it.
“This is different from arrears of pension generated by administrative bottleneck, where a person is retired and the process of computing entitlement will linger for between six months to two years.
“When eventually it is ready for payment, only the current month is paid, while the rest is classified as outstanding arrears.
“Today, over N9 billion is outstanding in pension and gratuity covering the period 2007 to 2018 in favour of local government pensioners.”