August 17, 2020

Pensioners N40bn debt: Nasarawa to pay N180m monthly


By David Odama – Lafia

The Nasarawa state government has offered to pay the sum of N180m monthly to over 1,500 pensioners in the state.

This is even as the Nasarawa state government was dragged to a federal high court sitting in Abuja and got judgement garnishing the state government account as a result of the over N40 billion owed the pensioners (retirees) by the previous administrations.

The state Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Dr Abdulkarim A Kana, who took a sweep on the case filed against the state government by some group of pensioner, said the position taken by the group to take the state government to court was against the initial agreement between the government and the pensioners.

He said the Nasarawa government was not unaware of the accumulated debts owe the pensioners, adding that before they approached the court, they wrote to the state government, and the government in her wisdom replied to them that it is working towards payment of their entitlement

Dr Abdulkarim revealed that the accumulated debt was so much that even if the government decided to pay, it will not be erased in tens of years with the annual budget and the statutory requirements for pensions.

According to him, “We informed them of the accumulated gratuity, but the government will find a way of paying it in instalment to continue to service the debt and other sectors,  yet they were not satisfied and went to court, so government dusted the files of those that went to court, to begin treating it and for that reason, six months down the line pensions were not paid.

“This was during the immediate government of Al-Makura, but before he left office, he paid half”, the commissioner said.

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“And immediately the new government of Engineer Abdullahi Sule, came on board, he said it is not fair seeing government doing a case with pensioners, they are our parents, therefore we should settle the matter out of court.

“This was one of the first assignment given to me when I became the state attorney general under the administration of Engineer Sule and we sat and resolved that we will find a way of paying them N180 million monthly.

“Remember that this not pensions but servicing outstanding gratuity. Then comes this issue on local government autonomy, which government and the government said it won’t be bearing the burden alone, meanwhile in the overall accumulations only 10 billion was for state and the remaining 30 billion was that of local government,” Dr Kana said.

He, however, posited that at this instance, the local government was brought in and an MoU was reached that will enable the out of court settlement with the pensioners and later filed in court supposedly to end the case.

The commissioner said having reach agreement, the case was taken out of court, with the target for the commencement of their payments at the month of February, but again it was at that time that local government subventions started dropping to a point where some LGAs could not even pay salaries successfully to their workers.

The commissioner, however, expressed optimism that by Wednesday there is likely going to be light at the end of the tunnel if the court in it wisdom seat and take the case out of court and defreeze the state account which as a result of the case filed by the 601 pensioners, which consequent negatively affected the state.

Vanguard News Nigeria.