Pensioners in Benue state have asked the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Comrade Ayuba Wabba to intervene in their predicament and ensure the payment of their entitlement running into several months and an upward review of their pensions.
In a letter to the NLC President, signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners in the state, Comrade Peter Kyado and Comrade Joseph Adakole respectively, the pensioners said many of them still collect as little as N800 as pension monthly, pointing out that for over 13 months state pensioners were yet to be paid that stipend, while local government pensioners have not been paid their pension for a period ranging from six months to over the seventh month.
They said even though the some of the liability was inherited from a previous administration, they believe that the government has received enough money to offset the arrears.
They claimed that they were convinced that the state government lacked the political will to pay the pensioners’ entitlement and not the non-availability of funds is responsible for the predicament of pensioners in the state, adding that they have written several letters of request and staged three peaceful protests matches to the appropriate authority to press for the payment of our entitlements but to no avail.
The letter reads in part: “Pensioners in Benue state are owed thirteen months arrears of monthly pensions for the months of November 2014 to April 2015 and March to September 2017. Old and new local government pensioners are owed between six and over seventy months of arrears depending on when they retired.
“Gratuity running into billions of naira are outstanding in the state. However, we appreciate the fact that much of the indebtedness was inherit d from past administrations in the state. The non-review of pensions in the state for over sixteen years has put the pensioners in the state at the most precarious financial predicament.
“Pensions payment have remained stagnant since 2001 despite six differ not the public salary increase. This is contrary to the provisions of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended)in section 173 where pensions are to be reviewed every five years or whenever there is a public salary increase whichever is earlier.
“Consequently, some pensioners earn only N800 minimum pension in the state in spite of the Act fixing the national minimum wage at N18,000. Presently, Labour unions in the country are clamouring for at least N56,000 national minimum wage.
“The present administration in the state has received monies in form of loans of several billions of naira including the monthly federal allocation and enhanced internally generated revenue. In addition. There was a bailout fund of N28.5 billion, the first and second tranche of the Paris Club refund of N12.8 and N6.8 billion respectively as well as the monthly N1.3 billion federal government intervention funds to the states.
“These receipts notwithstanding, it is our conviction that the lack of political will to pay the pensioners’ entitlement rather than availability of funds is responsible for the predicament of pensioners in the state.
“We have written several letters of request and staged three peaceful protests matches to the appropriate authority to press for the payment of our entitlements but to no avail. We have also appealed to the traditional, political and religious leaders for their intervention.
“This is taking place in a democratic dispensation where the rule of law reigns supreme and where the government derives its authority and legitimacy from the constitution.”