By Davies Iheamnachor
Retired civil servants in Rivers State have threatened legal action against the state government over alleged refusal to increase their pension as directed by National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, NSIWC.
Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Rivers State chapter, claimed that after the directive by NSIWC, it was only Rivers State that has not increased the benefits of its pensioners.
NUP noted that after NSIWC directed states to upgrade the pension of their retirees in 1999, for over 15 years, the state has not given attention to the directive.
Speaking in Port Harcourt after the congress of the union, Chairman of the state NUP, Edward Festus-Abido, issued a two-month ultimatum to the state government to pay off all outstanding entitlements.
Festus-Abido noted that within the 15 years the state government failed to comply, the outstanding amount has risen to over N50 billion. He threatened that if the government did not clear the accrued amount till end of March, the body would drag the state government to an industrial court.
Festus-Abido also threatened that members would embark on mass protest if Governor Nyesom Wike failed to make the welfare of pensioners a priority to ameliorate their suffering.
Reacting to alleged statement credited to Governor Wike while flagging off road construction project at Isiokpo, Ikwerre Local Government where the governor denied that the state government was owing the pensioners, Festus-Abido, insisted that the pensioners were being owed.
He contended that they were owed over four months as well as over N15 billion since the review of pension rates and initial pension arrears by NSIWC have not been paid.
Festus-Abido complained that every effort to draw the attention of the governor to the plight of the pensioners have proved abortive, saying “The Union is very much in shock at Governor Wike’s statement.
We want to categorically state that the state government is owing pensioners of the state. Respect, they say, is reciprocal, no matter any level one has attained in life, honour should be given to whom honour is due. Some of us trained most of the political leaders, so it is injustice and inhuman for the senior citizens not to be paid their pension entitlements and be respected.
Festus-Abido further called for review of contributory pension scheme which he said was not favourable to pensioners.
Reacting, Commissioner of Information, Emma Okah, said: “We have never had issues with pension in the state. On the figures they are mentioning, I am not conversant with it, but the head of service should be in a position to elaborate.
Rivers State Government prides itself as a government that attends to the salaries and wages of its workers and pensioners as at when due. But if by a cause any payment could not be implemented, there should be a reason. They should know where they are coming from. When Governor Wike assumed office, he cleared arrears that he did not owe. He is committed to paying salaries and pensions as at when due.”