Pensions

Paris Club Refund: How States Fared (1)

President Muhammadu Buhari and Mrs Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance

Majority of the states across the federation, have utilised the second tranche of the Paris Club refund they received to clear the arrears of their serving and retired workers’ entitlements.
However, in most states where the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities have been paid, some civil servants and retirees, especially those in the council areas, are still being owed.
A survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) indicated that some of the workers and pensioners were owed salaries and pensions for periods ranging between two and 11 months.
The Federal Government in July released about N243.79 billion to the states as the second tranche of the refund, having earlier released N388.30 billion to them in December 2016.
The funds were released following protests by the states against over-deductions from their allocations for external debt services between 1995 and 2002.
The federal government had advised the state governments to use between 50 and 75 per cent of their shares of the refund to clear the arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities they owed.
Reports indicate that 15 of the 22 (68 per cent) states surveyed so far, have utilised the money in settling the arrears of the entitlements while nine have not.
Those that paid are: Jigawa, Yobe and Adamawa in the North-East; Kwara in the North-Central; all states in the South-South except Cross River; Abia in the South-East; and all states in the South-West.
Bauchi, Gombe and Borno in the North-East; Cross River in the South-South; as well as Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi in the South-East have yet to pay the arrears.
In Jigawa, for instance, Alhaji Suleiman Kiyawa, Executive Secretary, Jigawa State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme, said the State Government had cleared the arrears.
Kiyawa said the state government paid about N461.4 million as terminal benefits to 339 retirees in the state.
Malam Muhammad Ali, a staff of the state Ministry for Local Government and Community Development, said no retired or serving worker in the state was being owed any entitlement.
Malam Abubakar Musa, a retired civil servant in the state, said that each time a civil servant retired, he/she collected the entitlements without delay.
In Yobe, Alhaji Baba Malam-Wali, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), said the state had been paying salaries of workers as and at when due and would continue to do so.
The SSG spoke through his Press Secretary, Shuaibu Abdullahi, in Damaturu.
However, payment of the entitlements of the council workers in the state had been delayed due to an internal conflict among members of the state Local Government Retiree Screening Committee.
Alhaji Kachallah Goni, the state Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), commended the state government for the prompt payment and urged it to intervene in the matter to pave way for hitch-free settlement of the arrears.
On its part, the Borno Government said it approved N6 billion for the clearing of the outstanding retired workers’ gratuities and pensions in the state.
It was however reported however, that the concerned workers and retirees have yet to receive the payments.
Mr Yakubu Bukar, Head of Service and Alhaji Usman Zanna, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs respectively, said in a statement in Maidugiri that a committee had been constituted to handle it.
In Gombe, Mr Haruna Kamara, Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the State Government had not settled the arrears of gratuities of some retired civil servants.
He said that government did not inform the NLC in the state about the release of the second tranche, but that the organised labour only read of it on the internet.
“The truth of the matter is that nobody from the government of Gombe state consulted us about the fund and how they are going to use it,” he said.
Malam Abubakar Umar, a pensioner in the state, appealed to the state government to pay the outstanding gratuities.
All efforts to get the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr James Phisagi, speak on the matter proved abortive.
In Yola, Gov. Muhamadu Bindow of Adamawa, acknowledged receipt of N6.11 billion as the state’s share of the refund.
“So far, we have settled six months inherited outstanding workers’ salaries.
It remains only one month salary arrears which I have directed the Commissioner of Finance to pay,” he said.
However, some primary school teachers, primary healthcare workers and pensioners complained of non- payment of their outstanding salaries and pensions.
Speaking to newsmen on condition of anonymity, some primary healthcare workers said they were owed three months salaries.
“As I am talking with you, we have not received even the July salary let alone the three months arrears. We are suffering,” said one of them.
Checks  at the state Pension Board indicated outstanding arrears of N11 billion owed to the state government pensioners and N8 billion owed to the local government pensioners.
The Bauchi State Chairman of NUP, Alhaji Abu Gar, said the state government owed the retirees N26 billion as arrears of gratuities.
Gar who lamented what he called ‘poor handling of issues relating to pensioners’ in the state, said 43 members of the union had died because of hardship.
The Permanent Secretary, Bauchi State Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Abdullahi Dori, confirmed the state government’s receipt of its share of the second tranche of the refund.
In Ilorin, North-Central, Dr Muideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant on Media to Gov. Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, said N2 billion of the N5.1billion received, was released to the 16 local government councils.
He also said that the state government released N312million to the state-owned tertiary institutions for the payment of salary arrears.
A pensioner, Mallam Ibrahim Salmanu, however, said most local government retirees in the state were owed up to 11 months arrears of pension.
According to him, payment of gratuities to state pensioners had been stopped since March 2014.
All the states in the South-West said they utilised the fund in settling the salary and pension arrears they owed their serving and retired workers.
In Ibadan, Mr Bimbo Adekanmbi, the Oyo Commissioner for Finance and Budget, said the state spent over 60 percent of the first and second tranches of the refund on clearing the arrears.
Adekanmbi said the N7.9 billion it received as the second tranche was used to pay the arrears of April and May salaries as well as pensions.
Mr Waheed Olojede, state NLC Chairman, confirmed the payment, but Mr Bayo Titola-Sodo, President, Nigeria Union of Local Government (NULGE), Oyo State chapter, said council workers were still owed salary arrears.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun Commissioner for Finance, Mr Wale Osinowo, said government had committed N4.5 billion to the payment of arrears of cooperative deductions owed workers in the state.
He said the payment represented 79 per cent of the N5.7 billion received.
The NLC Chairman in Ogun, Akeem Ambali, however, said that the 12 months arrears of cooperative and check-off due deductions made this year had not been paid.
In Osogbo, the Osun Commissioner for Information and Strategy,  Mr Adelani Baderinwa, said the state government spent N5.10 billion of the N6.31 billion it received to clear the arrears.
Baderinwa said the payment schedule was recommended by the State Revenue Allocation Committee chaired by Mr Hassan Sunmonu.
“The only outstanding payment owed pensioners here is the gratuity and this is because some who retired in 2011 and 2012 choose not to participate in contributory pension scheme,’’ he said.
The state Chairman of the NLC, Mr Jacob Adekomi, however, claimed that some workers and pensioners were still being owed.
The labour leader said that civil servants in the state had been receiving modulated salaries since July 2015.
“A modulated salary scheme means workers on grade one to seven receiving 100 per cent of their salaries, and workers on grade level 8 to 12 being paid 75 percent of theirs, for instance,” he said.
In Akure, the Ondo State Government said that it received N6.38 billion as the second tranche of the Paris Club refund.
Olusegun Ajiboye, Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, said 32.68 percent of the amount was allocated to the local government councils while the state government got 67.32 per cent.
“That is why Ondo state government used 75 per cent of its share to settle the salary and pension arrears,” Ajiboye said.
But Mrs Bosede Daramola, the NLC Chairman in the state, described fractional payment template adopted in the state as a breach of contract, saying it was unacceptable to the workers.
The Ekiti Government, on its part, said it received N4.7 billion as the second tranche of the refund.
The Commissioner for Finance, Chief Toyin Ojo, told NAN in Ado Ekiti that local government councils in the state got N1.8billion of the N4.7 billion.
He disclosed that the state government sought for additional fund in order to pay one month salary and leave bonus to all workers.
The NLC Chairman, Mr Ade Adesanmi and his TUC counterpart, Mr Odunayo Adesoye, said they were involved in the disbursement of the refund.
His NUT and NULGE counterparts, Mr  Segun Olugbesan and Mr Bunmi Ajimoko respectively,  also confirmed their involvement.
To be continued.
Obeta writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

Ejike Obeta

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