Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue says his administration is doing everything possible to address all pension-related issues in the state.
The governor stated this in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Terver Akase, and made available to newsmen on Sunday in Makurdi.
Recall that the governor was reacting to a statement credited to Benue Renaissance Network (BRN), where it said it would impress on the Presidency,
the National Assembly and the Governors’ Forum to intervene in the pension issue in the state.
“The state government has been discussing with the pensioners, who have also appreciated the efforts of the governor.
“The present administration inherited a total of N70 billion salaries, pensions and gratuity arrears when it took over in 2015, but has been able to reduce the figure to less than N40 billion.
“In addition, the Ortom administration has domesticated the PENCOM Law in the state, which is a sure way of ending the problem of accumulated pensions and gratuities.
“The group must also appreciate the fact that the government is constrained by the inadequacy of funds to be able to clear the outstanding pensions and gratuities,” he said.
The statement said that it was the earnest desire of the governor to address the pension matter, stressing that he had written to the Federal Government, requesting for assistance to enable him tackle the challenge.
“The governor’s request is currently being processed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The Federal Government is fully aware that the issue of pensions in Benue is not a deliberate attempt to deny the retirees of their entitlements.
“The government at the centre knows that Ortom is genuinely concerned and worried about the matter and has requested for the intervention of Mr President to enable him clear the outstanding pensions and gratuities.
“We, however, wish to correct the wrong impression created by the group in its statement that pensioners, who staged a protest at the Benue Peoples House in 2019 were beaten by thugs. No one manhandled any of the pensioners,” it said.
The statement said that it was on record that at the time the said pensioners staged their protest, the governor was out of the state, but directed that the senior citizens be taken into the Peoples House, accorded respect and given a place to stay, as he was already on his way back to the state.
“Sadly, the pensioners rejected the offer and chose to stay at the gate.
“As soon as the governor arrived, he met with them at the gate, accompanied by top government officials and pleaded with them to come into the Peoples House so they could discuss better.
“In addition, the governor informed them that he had already released over N600 million for the payment of their entitlements.
“The retirees refused to heed the governor’s advice and insisted on staying at the entrance to the Benue Peoples House,” it said.
The statement urged the group to desist from falsehood, such as claiming that the pensioners spent two weeks sleeping at Benue Peoples House gate, when, in truth, they ‘voluntarily’ spent six days.
“While no one will prevent members of the group from expressing their opinions, they should do so without allowing themselves to be used by some politicians to cause mischief and defame other people,” it said.