PENSIONERS in Benue State have pleaded with Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, to intervene in their plight, lamenting that they are being owed between six and over 7 months arrears.
In a petition to the President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, the petitioners through Concerned Pensioners Benue State, gave details of their unpaid benefits, saying “pensioners in Benue State are owed outstanding 13 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 7 months of arrears, depending on when the person retired.
Gratuities running into billions of naira are outstanding in the state. However, we appreciate the fact that much of the indebtedness was inherited from the past administration in the state. The non review of pensions in the state for over 16 years has put the pensioners in the state at the most precarious financial predicament.
“Pensions payable in the state have remained stagnant since 2001, despite six different public salary increases. This is contrary to the provisions of the 1999 constitution Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) in sections 173 and 2010, where pensions are to be reviewed every five years or whenever there is a public salary increase, whichever is earlier. Consequently, some pensioners earned only N800 minimum pensions in spite of the act fixing the National minimum wage of N18,000.
Presently, Labour in the country is clamoring 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 allocations and enhanced internally generated Revenue, IGR. In addition, there was bailout funds of 28.5 billion, the first and second tranches of the London/Paris Club refunds of N12.8 billion and N6.8 billion respectively, as well as the monthly N1.3 billion Federal Government intervention funds to the state.
These receipts not-withstanding, it is our conviction that the lack of political will to pay the pensioners entitlements rather than availability of funds is responsible for the predicament of the pensioners in the state. We have written several letters of request and staged three peaceful protest marches to the appropriate authorities to press for payment of our entitlements but to no avail.
We have also appeal to the traditional, political, and religious leaders for their interventions. This is taking place in a democratic dispensation where the rule of law reigns supreme and where the government derives its authority and legitimacy for the constitution.