Abia State Government has expressed it’s willingness and commitment to prioritize the payment of outstanding pensions and teachers salaries while disbursing the expected third tranche of Paris Club refund.
The State’s Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, gave the hint when the Chairman of Abia State Civil and Pensioners Association, Dr Emeka Okparanta, paid a visit to his office to debunk allegations of his organizing a planned protest by the Nigeria Union of Pensioners in the state.
Honorable Okiyi also noted that the present administration holds pensioners in the state in high esteem and will do everything within its powers to ensure their happiness.
According to the commissioner “the government will prioritize the payment of pensioners and teachers with the next tranche of Paris Club Refund expected next week.
“We expect that such a move will help bring most pensioners close or at par with most of our civil servants who have already received October salary and getting set to receive November.”,
According to him, “this government gave 100% of the N5.7b we received as second tranche of Paris Club refund to our workers because we place a lot of premium on their welfare and that of our pensioners.
“Nobody should doubt our sincerity and concern for the welfare of workers and senior citizens of the state whom we have gone ahead to launch a home care medical program to cater for. We don’t want them to be traveling to Umuahia and other sub treasuries before receiving pensions hence we automated the payment of their pensions to ensure that they receive bank alerts from the comfort of their homes.
“We also do not want them to travel to Umuahia to protest before they receive their dues and the Governor informed them just yesterday, during his live radio and television interaction with citizens, that as soon as we receive the 3rd tranche of Paris Club Refund we will prioritize payment of pensions and teachers salary in addition to taking care of other needs of more than four million Abians. Ultimately, our objective remains to get to the point where salaries, pensions and gratuities are no longer owed. With God on our side we will certainly get there.”
While submitting that paucity of funds and low inflow of revenue is a major challenge confronting the state government with regards to payment of some of the inherited backlog of salaries and pensions of workers in the state, the Abia information boss admitted that “whatever brings the senior citizens to protest on the street is not in the interest of Abia, government and people of the state” and assured that the Government will meet and overcome pension payment challenges.
He explained that senior citizens running around the streets to protest is not a solution but rather that such actions endangers the lives of the senior citizens and assured that the government of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu will evolve a lasting solution to the pension payment challenge.
“Of course we are aware of the political undertones in Nigeria Union of Pensioners Abia State Chapter with accusations and counter accusations between factions in preparation of their coming elections. We believe that internal political maneuvers between the gladiators may have motivated the protests with one of the factions trying to prove that they are engaging the government while the other is not. Even then, our focus remains how we can sustainably resolve the issue of pension arrears and to that end we are evolving measures to ensure that our IGR is grown to a level where we can pay salaries and pensions without waiting for allocations from Abuja”, he said.
The Commissioner also assured the pensioners of regular access to the Governor to ventilate their issues.
In his address, the Chairman of Abia State Civil and Pensioners Association, Chief Emeka Okparanta, said he was in the office of the Information Commissioner to debunk allegations of his organizing a protest of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners to embarrass the government and dissociated himself from the allegations.
He described media reports linking him to the protest as unfounded and untrue, noting that he cannot destroy a house he built while describing the state government as partners in progress.
According to Mr Akparata, “the information linking me to the protest was organized by my enemies to destroy my person and the good relationship I have with the government. I am aware that the Governor made a public commitment during his recent media briefing to prioritize payment of pensions and we believe he will carry it through. Our members are waiting in expectation and hope because we have confidence in Governor Ikpeazu.”
While describing the series of protests as not the solution to the problem of the association, Chief Akparata appealed to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to as a matter of urgency bridge the payment gap between the state civil servants who have received their October salaries and pensioners in the state.
“Our Governor has paid civil servants up to October but pensioners are months behind whereas we should receive as they are receiving. I call on Governor Ikpeazu who I know to be a kind hearted and astute administrator to remedy the situation and bring us at par with civil servants. We want to be paid as civil servants are paid.”
He revealed that many pensioners in the state were owed from 1999 to 2007 arrears and called on Governor Ikpeazu to use his office to ensure that the situation is remedied.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union Of Pensioners led by Mr Udensi carried out a peaceful protest to government house, Umuahia where they were addressed by the Head of Service, Chief Vivian Uma.