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Abia govt pays over N9bn arrears to pensioners

Abia govt pays over N9bn arrears to pensioners

Abia State Government has said it paid over N9billion as pension arrears owed pensioners in the state which was released to them last week.

Mike Akpara, commissioner for Finance who disclosed this at the Government House Umuahia while Okey Kanu, commissioner for Information and Culture, was briefing journalists on the outcome of this week’s Executive Council meeting, said that more would still be spent as some pensioners who had issues during the verification exercise would still be cleared.

Akpara pointed out that the state government did not borrow any kobo in offsetting the arrears owed pensioners because of the prudence of the state government.

Okey Kanu said that “Help Desk” had been opened at the Ministry of Finance to address omissions and other issues arising from the recent payment of arrears of pensions to retirees in Abia State by the Governor Alex Otti administration.

He also said that the Help Desk was necessary to ensure that no pensioner was left out in the arrears of pensions.

Kanu further disclosed that government had ordered that henceforth, full monthly pensions be paid to the retirees the same day civil servants in the state receive their pay.

“Arising from some issues associated with the payment of arrears of pensions in the state, Ministry of Finance has set up a Help Desk that will address the issues arising from the cases of those whose names were skipped. The whole idea is to ensure that, the whole process is smooth.
“Following the recent pension payment to our pensioners, His Excellency, Dr. Alex Otti, OFR has ordered that the pensioners be paid on the 28 of every month, just like the civil servants in the state,” he said.

The Information Commissioner equally announced that the state government had concluded plans to introduce a Contributory Pension Scheme for civil servants in the state

He disclosed that the state government had approved the reconstruction of 3.5 kilometre Osisioma-Ekeakpara road in Osisioma LGA, adding that the road would be reconstructed with cement pavement technology to guarantee its duration.

Speaking further on the issues of pensions, Akpara disclosed that over N9billion has so far been spent on the payment of arrears of pensions in the state and that the whole pension was paid as agreed with the Nigerian Union of Pensioners in the state.

“We had an agreement with the leadership of Nigerian Union of Pensioners and to what we agreed, His Excellency did exactly what we agreed. And the agreement is to pay the arrears of pensions and that’s exactly what the government has done and they are happy about that.

“Everybody knows that things are hard, so for a government to even own up and do what others have not done even in the past, it needs applause. Some people got up to N8million, individuals, so it’s not a mean thing,” he said.

Contributing, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Ferdinand Ekeoma said that the payments were verifiable, adding that the calculations were properly done and the negotiations with the leadership of the pensioners happened without hitches.

“We took it to the extreme and it is true that the Governor had actually mentioned 2014 but from the information I have gathered, we even went beyond 2014, because there were some persons that were owed pension arrears prior to 2014 that we also cleared. It is not on equal bases.

“The Honourable Commissioner for Finance and the Accountant General are already collating names of those who are having issues and all those issues are going to be resolved.”

On the issue of the forthcoming ANPA free medical mission, the Commissioner for Health, Ngozi Okoronkwo assured of the readiness of the State and added that the number of prospective patients had increased because of massive interest people had shown in the programme.
She added that the increased number would translate into carrying out about 25 surgeries a day.

Okoronkwo used the opportunity to inform that the state had gotten approval from the Nursing Council to train people on a two-year certificate programme that would produce practitioners in community healthcare system who would assist the personnel serving in the communities in providing healthcare to the people.