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The Controversy Surrounding Pension / Gratuity Payment In Kebbi

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Sacrifice and service to the nation is an obligation that everyone must endeavor to do especially civil servants who are often regarded as engine room of the development of a country through the many years they put in serving their father land.The biggest sacrifice one can do to his country is to offer dedicated service to his country no matter what position he/she holds in order to ensure steady development of his/her country come rain, come thunder. Contribution to nation building is again the greatest part of patriotism. It is expected that also on the part of the government, it has a responsibility, an obligation as stipulated by the law to identity, scrutinize and pay any genuine retired worker his or her due accordingly i e pension and gratuity in time according to the years he puts in service .

However it is rather unfortunate that retirees in some places go through all kinds of difficulties before they can get their entitlements from the government. Many others die in the struggle while others suffer different kinds of trauma leading to high blood pressure , one sickness or the other.
Recently in Kebbi , retirees or pensioners who are mostly elderly people have drawn a battle line against the government of Kebbi State in order to push for the payments of their outstanding gratuity arrears which runs into billions of naira.On two occasions in one month, the pensioners/retirees besieged the Eid praying ground fasting to pray for devine intervention. After the leadership of the pension union in the state held several meeting with the Kebbi State Government with a view to press for payment of their gratuity arrears , the issue still remains deadlocked as according to the Publicity Secretary of Kebbi State Retired Officers Welfare Association, Abdu Muhammad the Kebbi State Government said it doesn’t have enough money to settle all the outstanding gratuity arrears “” the meeting is still deadlocked because the government said it does not have enough money to the outstanding arrears of our gratuity of 9 to 10 billion, I can’t actually say say the exact figure because day before yesterday when we met the head of service he said the amount is 10 billion but to be honest with you iam not certain. It is lkely that the governor may say a different figure, the finance ministry too may quote a different figure, so it could be between 9 to 10 billion naira unpaid gratuity, we do not have problem with pension payments, because there is no pensioner that is owing, that one they pay regularly. Interestingly however, the Kebbi State Government is not saying that it will not pay but that it does not have such sum of money to pay us “, he said.

In the event that the government fail to pay , Muhammad warned that their members will have no option than to embark on their struggle part of which is to pray for devine intervention by congregating at the Eid praying ground to take their case to God against the government. He however said all hope is not lost with the current mediation meeting still going on between the union leadership, top government officials and a security agency “ But the Directorate of State Security (DSS) have assured us that the governor will pay us , they have now taken up the issue in the interest of peace , this is so far what we have achieved .Remember that if the DSS say they are going to be involved, it means that the federal government will be involved. Let warn that if the state government did not pay us, certainly we will continue with our agitation as will be determined by our top management “”. Although he cannot give the number of their members who died in the struggle, he added that many pensioners have died in the struggle even before they get paid .
One of the aggrieved hundreds of pensioners who besieged the Birnin Kebbi Eid Praying ground (Mosque) to pray for devine intervention from God for the payments of the backlog of the gratuity arrears was Aliyu Abubakar Danko who retired from work in 2016 did not hide his feelings against the government.Although he admitted gettingbhis pension money regularly, he however frowned at the lackadaisical attitude of government in paying his gratuity arrears .’’ I retire since 3 years ago but I have not been paid .We are here in the Eid praying ground to fight for our righ, more than 3 years now they did not pay me my gratuity but the pension they pay me every month , we don’t have problem with the pension but only the gratuity. Since the time he paid us 40% of our total money, later on he paid us percentages 3 times, apart from that nothing was done””. Danko harshly opined that they have besieged the Eid praying ground to pray against the government, to seek for devine intervention from God “” We come here first to listen to what our leaders will tell us and secondly take our matter to God through prayers and fasting “” , he warned.

Leadership Sunday investigation reveals that on its part ,the Kebbi State Government under the leadership of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu argued that it met a backlog of pension and gratuity arrears amounting to over 9 billion left by the immediate past administration of Alhaji Saidu Nasamu Dakingari and that on several meetings with the pension union , the state government had appealed to the pensioners to allow those who recently retired to be paid their gratuity, then followed by those that had earlier retired which have been accumulating into billions but they refused. Government also said since it came into power in 2015,that it pays pension to all eligible pensioners monthly, that no pensioner is owing a kobo as pension in the state and that only outstanding liability of gratuity is unpaid . Following the recent agitation made by cross section of unpaid pensioners in the state, Leadership Sunday met the Chairman of pension committee ,Alhaji Muhammadu Kwaido to make clarification on the matter . He said the Abubakar Atiku Bagudu led administration in Kebbi State has inherited a backlog of N6.2bn pension and gratuity arrears from the immediate past administration under the former governor of the state, Alhaji Usman Dakingari. Kwaido who is a former Accountant General , stated that at present , Bagudu’s administration has paid N9.5bn as pension and gratuity arrears to 13,207 pensioners of the state ministries, local government and local government education authorities (LEAs). According to him government is doing everything possible to settle all outstanding gratuity arrears “Since the coming of this administration in 2015 ,efforts have been made to offlset the backlog of the money running into billions that was owed to pensioners in Kebbi State by the previous government”. He added that the state government on a monthly basis pays N452, 221, 498.34 to pensioners and it keeps on rising every month as more workers retire and retirees die. “We pay local government retirees N3,401, local government education authority retirees N3,836 and N5,970 to state retirees as at August 2018”, he said. Alhaji Kwaido further explained that to offset the remaining pension and gratuity arrears being owed to the pensioners in the state, the state government has mandated his committee to embark on fresh verification of another batch of pensioners with a view to paying them their entitlements. Also, the state Head of Servicce, Alhaji Abubakar Udu Idris said the government was not unaware of the recent agitation by a cross section of aggrieved pensioners in the state over their unpaid entitlements despite the meeting they had with top government officials.He solicited for cooperation and understanding from the pensioners while assuring them that all their entitlements will be paid depending on availability of funds

The Secretary to Kebbi State Government, Alhaji Babale Umar Yauri while commenting on the issue also again assured all retired civil servants that the Kebbi State was committed to paying them their gratuity arrears. He however expressed worry over the action of what he described as a splinter group from the pension union that is trying to cause confusion and misconception about the whole pension matter. He said that it was unfortunate that some of the pensioners have resolved to embark negative prayers against the government that has shown commitment in paying them all their dues.”” The governor in his kind gesture graciously pay the 9 billion pension and gratuity arrears he met of the immediate past government even with the little resources accruing to the government then “”

The SSG explained that the misconception on the part of pension Union that the Kebbi State government was given alot of money to pay pensioners was not true. ‘’ You see the misconception is we recieved 20 to 30 billion to pay pensioners is not true. The money received is not only for payment of pension, there are other conditions attached to it but government graciously committed substantial amount of the money to pay pensioners . “” This money is not only for civil servants, government has to take care of security and other aspects of governance and social welfare “”, he said.Babale warned the splinter group in the pension union who are bent on going to Eid praying ground to pray against the government to rescind their decision and follow the path of dialogue with government.He assured all retired civil servants in the state of government commitment to settle all outstanding gratuity arrears.



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