There is no respite for retires in several states of the federation as they are owed pension arears and gratuities running into billions of naira.
In some states, pensioners have not received their stipends for between 20 months and 33 months.
In others, hundreds of them have died waiting for the payment of their pension arrears and gratuities, while others have fallen ill to various ailments without money to buy essential drugs.
Retirees who spoke with LEADERSHIP said the last two years has been the most horrible for them. They complained of endless screenings that were never matched with payments while the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) lamented that even the protests their members staged to draw attention to their plight did not move state governments to pay them their benefits.
In a particular state, the pensioners accused the governor of creating a parallel union to weaken the NUP, while in another, a lawyer who sued the state government on behalf of the pensioners was accused of a crime and arrested.
Consequently, the NUP accused the governors of the defaulting states of dancing on its members’ graves.
They, however, gave kudos to Kaduna, Plateau, Lagos, Kwara, Anambra, Niger and Oyo states for taking special interest in the welfare of pensioners.
LEADERSHIP learnt that some of the states listed above had paid pensioners up to November this year.
But the Benue State chairman of a faction of pension union known as Coalition of Aggrieved Pensioners, Comrade Akosu Orban, said over 500 pensioners died in the state in 2021 from untold hardship due to the non-payment of pensions and gratuities by the state government.
Comrade Orban, who disclosed this to newsmen during a protest, accused the leadership of their mother union, NUP, of betraying the cause, hence the idea to break away.
“Our mother union, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, has betrayed us and we decided to break away from them. Imagine they mocked us of being unreasonable and fighting government.”
Comrade Orban decried the way pensioners are dying on a daily basis due to neglect, rejection and dejection.
The pensioners, who were in their numbers, staged a protest in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, carrying placards with various inscriptions like Pensioners are dying, we can’t pay our children’s school fees, hospital bills, house rent; we can’t even feed; to register their grievances to the concerned authorities.
According to him, what is happening to is man’s inhumanity to man.
He said: “Our children are no longer in school because we cannot afford to pay their fees. We have lost our wives to Okada riders because we are no longer productive to cater for them. Many are dying as they are on special drugs and diet and cannot afford those drugs and diet.
“The governor is always referring to us as ‘dead’ people. The last time we went to Government House, we were insulted. The speaker once told us that the bailout that was given to the state by the federal government did not capture pensioners.
“All we are demanding now is for government to pay us by instalments for six months to stabilize us and then pay two months every month until the backlog is cleared”, he appealed.
The faction union also threatened to use their numerical strength to engage in massive protest that will shut down the state if the Benue State Government failed to listen to their plight.
The chairman disclosed that out of the 33 months owed pensioners in the State, only six months was inherited from the previous administration while 27 months backlog is the creation of the present administration.
But in a swift reaction, Governor Samuel Ortom through his Chief Press Secretary, Nathaniel Ikyur, said the state government had an agreement with the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Pensions, which is also part of the monthly Local Government Joint Account, and has been releasing the sum of N700 million to pensioners in the state monthly.
According to the governor, “out of this amount, N300 million is paid to the local government pensioners and the sum of N400 million to state pensioners.”
However, the union in the statement wondered how N700 million would be released by the state government monthly as claimed by the governor, yet the number of months owed them keeps rising at the end of every month and asked government to probe the line through which the money is released to pensioners.
Pensioners in Kano State said the state government owes them over N28bn gratuities.
The chairman of the state chapter of the NUP, Ahmed Gwale, disclosed this in a telephone interview in Kano on Tuesday.
He said the state government had not been able to pay gratuities to all Civil Servants that retired since July 2016.
“The state government has not paid retirement benefits to retirees from July 2016 to date,” Gwale stated.
He said Primary Health Care, SUBEB and 44 local government areas are the organs causing headache to the pension board because of their inconsistency in remitting funds to the board when due.
Pensioners who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity expressed dismay at the problems they had been encountering in 2021, saying that it has never been so bad for them like now.
“We have faced difficulties as a result of socioeconomic problems which brought about an inflationary trend in the country. Today, the monthly stipends we collect as our pension is nothing to write home about because of the loss in the purchasing power of the Naira,” one of them said.
Other speakers expressed their concern at the number of people that died as a result of lack of funds to cater for their needs.
Only recently, pensioners in Rivers State staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, the state capital, demanding for the payment of their gratuities and pension arrears.
Although it could not be ascertained how many pensioners died in 2021 alone, no fewer than 300 pensioners have lost their lives since 2012 while waiting to receive their gratuities and pension arrears.
However, the administration of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has been consistent in the payment of monthly pension alone.
Speaking on the development, chairman of NUP in Rivers State, Collins Nwankwo, said the situation has caused untold hardship to many of their families, pointing out that some pensioners had been evicted from their homes for their inability to pay their rents.
Nwankwo said: The gratuities are not paid. Even though past administrations too owed, there were attempts to pay. But this very government, since it came in 2015, has not paid any gratuity. But they have been very consistent in the payment of monthly pension.
“But as far as gratuities, initial pension arrears, death benefits and all that are concerned, they have not paid anything. It is very disheartening; it is very painful when you see pensioners dying for not getting what they are entitled to. This thing is a constitutional matter. It is a legal thing.”
Although the Rivers State government had insisted that it was not owing pensioners in the state, efforts to get the reaction of the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, were abortive.
In Abia State, the branch acting chairman of the NUP, Comrade John Ekpendu, said the members are owed up to 33 months arrears of pension from 2014 till date.
He said during their last discussion with officials of the government they were informed that the government had earmarked N530 million for the liquidation of the arrears after serious persuasion by the members.
“But, about a few days ago, we heard over the radio that the government had approved N520 million for the purpose,” he said, wondering what had become of the N10 million balance.
Though he could not give the exact figure of the members that have died this year without checking the record following the public holiday, he said, however, that “quite a number of us have gone to the great beyond as a result of lack of money to take care of some of their basic needs as well as the necessary drugs for those who have health challenges associated with ageing.”
The unionist added that aside from the irregular payment, they are also faced with unilateral slashing of their take-home package by as much as 60 percent by the government.
Pensioners in Adamawa State have fumed over the non-payment of over N27 billion owed them by both the state and local governments in the state.
Mr Samson Almuru, the state chairperson of the NUP, said between 2019 to date, over 200 pensioners have died waiting to receive their pension.
“The union is aware that some pensioners are given N50,000- N200,000 as part of their gratuity and tagged assistance. The government is owing pensioners over N27 billion, i.e. both state and LGA pensioners.
“They waited to receive their gratuity payments from the state government after their retirement from the services of the government but the governor failed them,” he said.
Officials from government circles said the present administration is concerned about the plight of pensioners and that an upward review of the monthly allocation for payment of gratuity to retired local government workers from N3.5 million to N15 million had been approved by government.
The government of Nasarawa State, in a concerted effort to alleviate the plight of retirees in the state, has spent N1.5bn as gratuity.
The public relations officers of the Pension Bureau, Ibrahim Abdullahi disclosed this to LEADERSHIP.
He said the state government is always prompt in the payment of gratuity to pensioners.
The state chairman of N UP, Nuhu Baba Abdullahi in an interview said the state governor was doing his best.
It could be recalled that some retirees in 2018 drag the former governor of the state, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura to National Industrial Court in Makurdi, compelling the state governor to pay them their remuneration, which was paid on percentage for three years
It could be recalled that the state government account was garnished by the court for almost three consecutive times.
LEADERSHIP can authoritatively disclose that over 1,500 retirees who are passionately waiting for their retirement benefits developed either hypertension, stroke or having sight related ailments while scores died from January to date.
The governor, during a media event in Lafia, said the state-owned pensioners had their entitlement worth N40bn. It was gathered that the state government was paying N130m monthly to settle outstanding entitlement of pensioners.
In Gombe, retirees are owed billions of naira outstanding gratuities.
But there was succour to the pensioners recently when the state Governor Inuwa Yahaya earmarked the sum of N1.5 billion this December to reduce the backlog of gratuities owed to them.
Out of the money, the governor ordered the payment of N750 million to them during the Christmas celebration.
According to the governor, the sum of N1.5 billion was earmarked in the 2022 budget for settlement of outstanding gratuities of retired civil servants.
In Jigawa State, pensioners are not having any problems with regards to the payments of their monthly pension and gratuity as it is always paid when due.
The State and Local Government Contributory Pension Board has paid over N9.4 billion as monthly pension, gratuity and death benefits from January to December this year.
According to the public relation officer of the board, Comrade Ismaila Ibrahim, the state is not owing any workers pension or gratuity including this month of December.
“In Jigawa State our pension system is functional and also our pension assets are managed with accountability while the state government has never failed in paying its monthly contribution,” he said.
The immediate past chairman of the NUP, Jigawa State chapter, Comrade Muhammad Tsoho Garba corroborated the above statement.
However, he decried the failure of the state government to implement the increment of the monthly pension as approved by the federal government since 2019.
Pensioners in Ondo State are owed arrears of pension running into several months.
Although the state government had recently paid some months of salaries, pensioners in the state were said to have not found it easy during the recent Christmas celebration and had no hope for the celebration of the new year.
Some pensioners in the state who spoke with LEADERSHIP said the state government owed them backlogs of pensions and gratuities.
Those who do not want their name mentioned disclosed that the government has turned them into beggars after serving the state for 35 years.
When contacted on the development, the state NUP chairman, Mr Johnson Osunyemi, disclosed that government had been paying “in percentage arrangements.’’
“But they still have some backlogs of pension arrears to pay us. As they have paid (for) this month (December), it remains the arrears of seven months for the state pensioners and six and a half for the local government pensioners.
“For the gratuities, till date, the government owes us almost N65bn. But every month, the government would release N200m for the payment of gratuities to the state pensioners and N50m for the local government pensioners.
“This does not cover anything and if we continue like this, in the next few years, the state may not be able to pay the backlogs of gratuities again.”
Speaking on the number of pensioners who died in Cross River State as a result of state government owing them pensioners, chairman, Calabar Pensioners Association, Elder Eyo O. Eyo, stated that many of their members had died due to their inability to fend for themselves.
“The state government is owing us December pension money. Gov. Ayade had paid us up to November. What we are owed is December pension,” Eyo maintained.
Eyo stated that the only thing the state government was owing workers in the five LGAs where he is the chairman is gratuity, which he won’t speak about for now until he checks the records.
Also speaking on the issue, newly appointed Head of Service and permanent secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, Mr. Ogbang Timothy Akwaji eulogized the state government, saying that reason why workers don’t know that state government has performed tremendously with regards to pension issues is because of the existence of gaps in information.
“Ayade has reasons to beat his hand on the chest. He is one man who would never like to see anyone suffering. It’s the reason he worked assiduously to clear all his outstanding owed the workers,” Akwaji said.
Effort to reach the chairman for pension association in the remaining 13 LGAs in Cross River State failed as his telephone lines were switched off as the time of filing this report.
The plight of pensioners in Ekiti state in the year 2021 is not different from what it was in the past year.
In Ekiti state, pensioners are being owed arrears of the pension running into billions of naira.
Though the actual number of months owed could not be ascertained, the unpaid arrears of pension was said to have become an issue in the state since 2013.
Chairman of the NUP in the state, Joel Akinola said the state government is owing his members billions of naira in pension arrears.
“We are having unpaid arrears running into billions of naira.”
Akinola revealed that quite a number of the retirees are dying of age-related ailments due to lack of money to attend to their health challenges, saying the huge gratuities and pensions owed them had aggravated their problems.
The NUP chairman who spoke recently in Ado Ekiti state said pensioners last received allocation of N250m for the payment of gratuities in February 2021 and this brought the list of beneficiaries to June 2013.
“The local government pensioners had allocation of N100 million in July/August 2021 which brought the list of beneficiaries to 2012/2013″.
However, the state government had some months ago released N250 million for the payment of outstanding pensions to an additional set of 86 retirees in the state.
The Acting Executive Secretary, Ekiti Pension Transitional Arrangement Department (PTAD), Mr Francis Omotoso, said the amount was used to offset the outstanding balance of pension for May and June.
Omotoso said the state governor had promised to regularly release tranches of N250 million for payment of pensions until all outstanding retirement benefits were cleared.
Since the inception of the present government in Oyo State in 2019, under Governor Seyi Makinde, pensioners have been singing praises of the governor because they have been receiving their pensions as and when due.
Available statistics showed that the state government is not owing any of the pensioners presently, as the government had made the welfare of the pensioners a priority.
Despite frantic efforts by the Adegboyega Oyetola led administration in Osun to meet the yearning of pensioners in the state, the government is owing some workers about 29 months pension arrears.
The retirees under the contributory pension scheme in their hundreds trooped out in November to demand their entitlements from the government.
The pensioners who claimed that bulk of the entitlements were owed during the Rauf Aregbesola-led administration however maintained that government is a continuum.
However, this year alone, the state government has released billions of naira for payment to pensioners, the latest being N708m in September and N300 million in October, according to the Head of Service, Dr. Festus Oyebade.
Retirees in Bauchi State have decried selective payment of pensions to them by the state government/
This is coming as some of the retirees spent 20 months without being pensioned.
A retired civil servant Adamu Sheka told LEADERSHIP, “I spent 20 months without being paid. It is not easy. You look at the inflation of food items. It is only the work of God that we survive. I have a friend at Mararaban Dajin who has not been paid for over 22 months now.”
Umar Sa’id, information officer Bauchi State Office of Head of Service, said payments of pensioners gratuities and monthly pensions have been transferred from the Office of the head of a service since the last two years to the State Pensions Board.
Idris Hassan, not real name, a retired Bauchi State civil servant said he exited service in 2018 but could not get his gratuity paid to him.
Hassan maintained that his monthly pensions have been flowing unfailingly.
Retirees and Pensioners in Bayelsa State have rated high the performance of the Governor Douye Diri administration in the area of regular payment of pension and gratuities in 2021.
LEADERSHIP gathered that Governor Diri, while campaigning in 2019, promised to prioritise the welfare of workers in the state.
The state acting chairman of NUP, Comrade Selepri Williams, told LEADERSHIP that the pensioners have fared well under Governor Douye Diri administration.
Kaduna State government said it did not only pay pensioners as when due but has also increased the minimum pension to N30,000 monthly for retirees on defined benefits.
The state government also said it became the first government to pay the new national minimum wage to civil servants.
The Kaduna State executive council in 2021 approved the new minimum pension, which will add N200 million monthly to the government’s payroll charge, or N2.4 billion per annum.
Also, the state government introduced the Contributory Pension Scheme for its workforce.
Meanwhile, Chairman Kaduna State branch of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, NUP, Abdu Ramalan Kwarbai, has commended governor Nasir el-Rufai for being the first governor to pay N30, 000 minimum pensions to pensioners.
A pensioner, Mrs Luka Esther, who spoke with LEADERSHIP said they were always undergoing screenings and verifications but the pension pay is constant.
The NUP, Kaduna State Council chairman, Aboman Ladan, expressed satisfaction with the State government for payment of members pension benefits and other entitlements to pensioners when due across the state.
He, however called on the Ministry of Local Government to equally place priority on payment of monthly pensions at local government level and avoid unnecessary delays in the payment of pension entitlements.
In Lagos State, the government has fully embraced and committed to the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) of their workers as stipulated by law.
The state’s Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pension, Mrs Ajibola Ponnle said as of December 4th this year, the state government had paid over N34 billion as pension accrued rights under the present administration in the state.
According to her, 8,707 retirees are enjoying their retirement benefits under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) since this administration came to power.
She said the state government had also paid over N1.5 billion into the Retirement Savings Accounts (RSA) of 421 retirees with their Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) in addition to their monthly contribution for the month of November.
According to her, the state government, through LASPEC, would continue to ensure that public service retirees get what was due to them statutorily.
She added that the retirees would also continue to receive, through other agencies and programmes, additional support and assistance that would add value to their lives in retirement.
Mr. Ponnle emphasised that government is not owing pensioners, as they had been paid till date, adding that there are ongoing plans by government to expand social protection and welfare of Defined Benefit Pensioners, Medical/Health Insurance and transportation on Lagos State government travel network.
Speaking to our correspondent Mr. George Pam, a retiree from the Plateau Radio Television Corporation, said Governor Simon Lalong is trying in the area of payment of monthly pension to the state retirees who retired from the State Civil Service.
According to him, the state government is up to date in terms of payment of monthly pension to the retirees, except for local government retirees.
Pam argued that even in the area of gratuity the governor is also trying his best as payment is spread across with the view to pay by instalments.
Similarly, Mrs. Ladi Bulus who is also a retiree from Plateau State Hospital Management Board told our correspondent, “As Iam talking right now , I collected my December monthly pension before Christmas,” she said.
Effort to contact the State Commissioner of Finance, Mrs. Regina Soemlat and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Yahaya Mavo to comment the amount the state government is spending or owing pensioners in the state could not yield any fruitful result as his mobile phone was switched off as at the time of filing this report.
However, an impeccable source from the Plateau State Ministry of Finance confirmed to our correspondent in Jos that the State government has early this year issued promissory notes to pensioners in the state.
According to the source, the gesture is in furtherance of the determination of the administration of Simon Lalong to settle pension liabilities.
He noted that the State Government has resolved to issue promissory notes for the settlement of pension arrears, gratuity and death benefits of the state pensioners.
The Imo State Government has stressed that pensioners had been paid up to date all their outstanding arrears. This position was made known by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon. Declan Emelumba while interacting with LEADERSHIP.
According to him, the state government, having realized the sacrifices made by these elder statesmen, was left with no other option than to pay them when due.
The commissioner revealed that the state government has expended over N30 billion in clearing the outstanding allowances and emoluments of the pensioners and highlighted that all pensioners that had perfected their documentation received their entitlements, even as he called on those with challenges to report appropriately.
Speaking, the Imo State chairman of the NUP, Gideon Ezeji, concurred with the commissioner.
He commended the State Governor, Hope Uzodimma for listening to the plights of the pensioners and clearing the outstanding arrears.
The immediate past chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, in the state, Comrade Jerry Nnubia told LEADERSHIP that the state government is “up to date in payment of pensions to the retired workers”.
He stated, however, that the only area the government has not done well is in payment of gratuities.
Kwara State government is not owing retirees any pension, the state’s chairman of NUP, Comrade Saidu Oladimeji, told LEADERSHIP in Ilorin, the state capital yesterday.
He said: “The administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is not owing us any pension. They are paying our pensions when due since the inception of the administration in 2019. They pay us between 22nd and 27th of every month.
“The government has also embarked on systemic payment of gratuities to retirees, both at the state and local government levels on a monthly basis. We really appreciate the government’s gesture,” the NUP chairman added.
Oladimeji, however, appealed to Governor AbdulRazaq to consider the payment of pension arrears owed the retirees between 2015 and 2017 by the previous administration.
As of the time of filing this report, all efforts to obtain information from relevant government officials on what the government has spent on pensioners welfare in the outgoing year were abortive.
Niger State government has paid retirees monthly pension up until November this year but there is delay in December payment due to ongoing screening in the state.
The state government in November set up a committee made up of Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries to conduct table payment in order to ascertain the number of pensioners in the state.
Consequently, it was learnt that the process has delayed the December payment because of the framework to develop a template for subsequent payments.
Meanwhile last week the Governor Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Matane, at a summit by former state heads of service and retired permanent secretaries, confirmed that the state was owing over N30 billion retirees’ gratuities but is up to date in monthly pension.
Attempt to get the reaction of NUP were unsuccessful as the officials did not pick their calls but a pensioner Yakubu Mohammed told LEADERSHIP that Niger state has been up to date in Monthly pension but there was delay in payment of gratuities.
He said, “Niger State is trying in terms of monthly pension but our gratuities are also important. Last year they paid us 30 percent across board but we need it full.”
On the number of pensioners who had died this year, a government source said the record will be ascertained at the end of ongoing screening of retirees.
In Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi disclosed during a meeting with retirees and pensioners that the state’s pension bill had risen to over N500 million per month, up from an average of N200 million under previous administration.
He had said the transparent approach by his administration had ensured the capture of a larger number of retired civil servants in the pension safety net.
He said, “Today, we run a pension bill of over N500m every month. This means that for each year, we pay an estimated N6 billion to our senior citizens. It also means that by the end of our first term in office, this bill will be around N24 billion.”
But it was gathered that while some retirees are receiving their stipends, others are yet to be paid.
Just last July, the retirees of the parastatals in Enugu State recently sent a passionate appeal to the state governor to save them from massive untimely deaths by urgently directing the concerned agency to commence the payment of their entitlements.
They lamented that their inability to access their pension entitlements many years after their retirement had rendered many of them unable to afford even one square meal per day.
A statement signed by Mr. Ferdinand Okonkwo on behalf of the affected pensioners expressed the pensioners’ gratitude to the governor for making it possible for them to undergo verification and biometric capturing early this year.
The pensioners drawn from Library Board, Daily Star Newspaper, Water Corporation, Rural Electrification Board, Enugu State Broadcasting Service (ESBS), Arts and Culture and Tourism Board, among others, expressed hope that the governor would meet their expectation.
“We are very happy that Governor Ugwuanyi, sometime in March or April, directed that we undergo verification and biometric capturing, so that the state government could start paying our deserved entitlements. Since then, we have been waiting patiently to receive an alert to assuage our pains and predicament, but to no avail.
“As a result, we have been subjected to excruciating pains exacerbated by the harsh living conditions currently plaguing the country. Many of our colleagues have died of hunger without accessing their pension entitlements.”
The retirees appealed to the governor to save them from imminent death. They reminded the governor how he raised their hope during the last Workers’ Day celebration at Okpara Square, where he expressed his administration’s readiness to address the problems confronting parastatals in the state.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Maiduguri, the Borno State chairman of NLC, Comrade Yusuf Inuwa said the state had cleared all pensions because they are paid for in batches.
Inuwa recalled that between April and May this, the state government borrowed about N12 billion with which some pension and arrears were cleared, adding that presently, pensioners receiving below N50,000 monthly have been cleared from 2016 to 2020.
He said the government voted N25 million monthly for the clearance of backlog of pension and gratuities beginning from 2013, adding that there were omissions in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 pension and arrears which the government is presently rectifying.
He pleaded to the state government to raise about N300m monthly so as to clear gratuities of workers owed in both state and local government areas.
He said if the government can raise the money, in the next three to four years, most workers’ gratuities would have been cleared.
Since 2017, the Delta State government has not paid pensioners while some are being owed more than that.
The pensioners are saying that nothing concerns them about the subsidy, calling on the state government to pay their pensions.
Pensioners under the aegis of Association of Contributory Retirees (ACR) Delta State Council, also disowned the excuse of subsidy
According to its vice chairman, Mr. Antony Osanakwu, “We that spent 35 years in service, instead of paying us our pension, they are saying when the subsidy is removed. Nothing concerns us with removal of subsidy. They are wicked for not paying us our pension after 35 years in service.
“This money, we contributed part of it, but the government refuses to pay us. And since over five years we have been owed. The government of Delta State is a deceit; they are just playing on their fathers’ intelligence because we have seen that Okowa does not want to pay, only playing on our intelligence.”
FG Release N16.67bn For Payment Of Accrued 2021 Pensioners
Meanwhile, the federal government has approved new funds for the payment of accrued pension rights to 2021 retirees of treasury-funded ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
In a statement that was released by the National Pension Commission (PenCom), the government released the sum of N16.67 billion for the settlement of pension areas for the 2021 retirees.
The federal government had earlier settled all arrears of accrued pension rights payments to the verified and enrolled retirees up to December 2020.
The government allocated N501.19 billion for payment of pensions in 2021, a drop from the N536.72 billion in 2020.
President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in the year approved the payment of the consequential adjustment to pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) in line with the minimum wage approved in 2019.