By Imman Onye
It was an unusual development for Hon. Tunji Odeyemi, a former acting governor of Ekiti State, former Speaker of the State House of Assembly and the immediate past chairman of the Ekiti State House of Assembly Service Commission.
He and some other appointees of the Ayodele Fayose administration were recently astounded as they received their outstanding entitlements from Governor Kayode Fayemi.
“We are most delighted for an avenue like this. I must confess that this opportunity we are having today is very uncommon,” Odeyemi said in acknowledgment of the changed narrative in Ekiti State.
The practice of yore, especially with the immediate past administration was to cast aside the entitlements of appointees who were not appointed by the administration. Their entitlement as it was believed turned into bad debt.
“When a new governor or government comes on board, what they usually do is to remove members of commissions and boards appointed by their predecessor not minding the laws establishing those commissions,” Odeyemi who alongside his colleagues were appointed by the immediate past administration headed by Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
Odeyemi, a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly and in that capacity Acting Governor of the State evoked an emotion that really shook the emotions of those present on that occasion.
Continuing, he said:
“But you have magnanimously retained us and now paying our outstanding salaries. As far as Ekiti is concerned, from 1999 to date, the opportunity we are having like this has not been very common. We are grateful to His Excellency for this”, he said.
The former acting governor said Fayemi’s action was clearly devoid of personal vendetta as he said that they expected that they would be removed from office once the governor stepped into office last year.
Fayemi who was represented on that occasion by his Chief of Staff, Hon. Biodun Omoleye lauded the former political office holders for continuing to work in the interest of the state even after the exit of the administration that brought them to office.
The beneficiaries were mainly drawn from the State Civil Service Commission and House of Assembly Service Commission.
Fayemi in a clear demonstration of humility and modesty described their gesture in serving his administration after Fayose’s exit as a clear act of patriotism.
Such acts of treating everyone equally irrespective of political affiliation is reflective of the One Ekiti spirit that Governor Fayemi has pursued since his inauguration for a second time last year.
Besides opposition political elements, pensioners have also benefited from the governor’s pro-active measures.
Only last Wednesday, the governor disclosed that a total of N549 million has been paid till date to clear part of the pension arrears inherited from the immediate past administration.
He disclosed this while distributing cheques worth N100 Million as gratuity to 61 local government and primary schools’ retirees.
Dr. Fayemi said the steps taken towards clearing the backlog of gratuity is a testament to the desire of his administration to ensure that those who had spent their productive age in serving the State do not suffer after their retirement.
“It is a fact that outstanding gratuity debt profile is running to billions of naira, but it is my belief that a journey of one thousand miles starts with a step. Based on this premise, we are starting with the release of one hundred million naira (N100,000,000) for the offset of the outstanding gratuity. In spite of paucity of fund, I have mandated the quarterly release of fund for the payment of gratuity to retirees of Local Government and Primary Schools of Ekiti State”, he said.
While promising to alleviate the sufferings of the pensioners by making regular payment of their exit benefits a top priority, the governor stated that their entitlements would be paid within available resources.
Fayemi said his government is not unmindful of those who had passed on in the cause of waiting for their entitlements; saying this is regrettable.
“I urge the beneficiaries of this tranche of the payment to take advantage of the talks on financial prudence already shared with you and utilise the fund judiciously for a blissful retirement. I enjoin others to keep faith with our administration as we are poised to fulfil all our promises to the people of the State, and utmost importance is your gratuity,” the governor said.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Development, Prof. Adio Folayan had said that the event was a practical demonstration that Fayemi places priority attention on the welfare of retired senior citizens.
Folayan said the Fayemi-led administration inherited N13,513,873,255.27 as arrears of gratuity and N2,689,838,380.61 as pension arrears but is making efforts to clear the backlog of inherited wage bill.
One of the beneficiaries, Madam Felicia Ojaomo thanked the governor for remembering the pensioners after years of abandonment.
She said Fayemi’s return is an answer to the prayers of the pensioners who had hoped for better days; adding that the distribution of cheques to them is a testimony that Fayemi has started fulfilling his campaign promises to pensioners.
Mr. Imman Onye writes from Lagos