By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
The Imo state governor Emeka Ihedioha and his immediate predecessor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, have disagreed over the amount of over N1.2 billion which the current government said it paid to pensioners in the state.
Vanguard monitored the argument of the duo of Ihedioha and Okorocha, in Owerri, that the bone of contention was the amount of money paid and to what number of pensioners.
While Ihedioha through his Chief Press Secretary, Chibuike Onyeukwu, said that the total of 24,431 pensioners was paid N1, 218,175,387.
The Okorocha through his Special Adviser on Media Sam Onwuemeodo disagreed by saying that in their own time in government that their pension verification exercise had a total of 25,124, pensioners and that they were paid N1.205 billion.
According to Ihedioha, “The entire people of Imo State, especially pensioners, have been jubilant following the fulfilment of the promise made by Imo State Governor, Rt. Hon.Emeka Ihedioha CON to ensuring commencement of payment of pensions to State and local government Pensioners.
“The payment of arrears of pensions in the State came barely a week the governor had, at a Stakeholders Meeting on Pensions Matters at Imo Concorde hotel, Owerri, announced that payment will commence today, Thursday, October 17, 2019.
“In a broadcast to the people of the State, Governor Ihedioha announced that the State government will be parting with N1, 218,175,387 for both State and Local government pensioners monthly.
“He revealed that his administration inherited six years of pension arrears and discovered inexplicable discrepancies in the total number of pensioners in both the State and 27 local government areas.”
He continued by saying: “Pursuant to their mandate, the Committee undertook the extraction and analysis of 48,481 records comprising 28,658 from the Office of the Head of Service (OHOS) of the State and 19,823 from the Local Government Pension Board.
“After it had processed the records, the Committee finally verified 24,431 pensioners. These were, subsequently, consolidated in a central server for the validation phase.
“Governor Ihedioha said huge funds were saved for the State after the process of paying pensioners were reviewed and re examined.
“It is very instructive that out of an initial monthly bill of N1, 499,157,895.00 being accrual for 33,541 state and LGA pensioners, presented to the state government as at May 2019, the amount has been trimmed down to N1, 218,175,387 for 24,992 pensioners. This entails a savings of N280, 982,508.00 or 18.7 per cent per month.
“Consequently, a total of 8,549 or 25percent, of ghost pensioners in all were filtered out. This represents the number of state resources that would have gone into the drains without the necessary due diligence.
“These involved cases of duplication and overpayments engendered by wrong parameters, calculation errors or deliberate falsifications. There were instances in which Level 6 officers were earning pensions for Level 16. Unfortunately, while the pensioners received pensions due them as retired Level 6 officers, the balance of the funds could not be accounted for.”
In Okorocha’s response, “After three months of the much orchestrated biometric verification of
Pensioners in the State, and after all the whole promises to pay Pension arrears, the governor of the State, Chief Emeka Ihedioha made an early morning Broadcast on Thursday, October 17, 2019, (today) specifically on the issue of Pension, and only ended up dashing the hope of the
Pensioners in the State and also gave a wrong analysis of what the Pension situation has been in the State.
“On our part, the governor only decided to be liberal with blackmail and very tight-fisted with the facts or truth of what the Pension situation in the State has been.
“In the broadcast, the government announced that the payment of Pension for the months of August and September would begin on Thursday, October 17, 2019 (today), against the earlier repeated promise by his government that the Pensioners would be paid in arrears.
“The governor in his broadcast said that after the biometric verification, the total number of Pensioners in the State came to 24,431 (Twenty-four Thousand, Four Hundred and Thirty-one Thousand), while the Pension bill for each month was reduced from N1.499b to N1.218b.
“The figure arrived at after the verification done by Okorocha’s government was 25,124 Pensioners, which included the past governors, former deputy governors, retired Judges, retired Permanent Secretaries and so on, with the monthly Pension bill of N1.205b.
“The question now is, if the governor had said in his broadcast that the Pensioners are now 24,431, with the monthly Pension bill of N1.218b, and the comprehensive verification done by Okorocha gave the number of Pensioners as 25,124, with the monthly Pension bill of N1.205b, who is now defrauding the State? Why should the Pension bill for 24,431
“Pensioners be higher than the pension bill for 25,124 Pensioners, with N13million. They never did any verification. The government had also demanded a copy of the verification done by Okorocha’s administration. And a copy of it, dated June 12, 2019.”