WHY PENSIONERS AND CIVIL SERVANTS’ VERIFICATIONS BY GOVERNMENT ARE INEVITABLE

Imo pensioners

Recently, Imo State pensioners demonstrated on the streets of Owerri, the state capital, over claims that the state government had not paid their pensions and gratuities for the last four months. They alleged that the state government under the able leadership of Senator Hope Uzodimma had refused to pay them since he took over from former Governor Emeka Ihedioha on January 15, 2020.
Pension and gratuity payment palaver is a national malaise which affects both the state and the federal governments. It is not peculiar to Imo State. But, the focus of this essay is specifically for Imo State.
Since the advent of the Republic democratic dispensation, from 1999 till date, successive governments of Imo State had battled with this
recurring issue of pension and gratuity payment. Inasmuch as pensioners deserve their monthly stipends , it’s incumbent on government to undertake verification in order to have a comprehensive and accurate data of pensioners in the state. It is unfair on the part of pensioners to expect Governor Uzodimma to continue payment of pensions and gratuities on the template established by his predecessors.
Pension and gratuity payment worsened, and literally collapsed in the state under the inhuman government of former Governor Rochas Okorocha who subjected them on countless verification. The government of Okorocha didn’t do a wrong thing by verifying the actual number of pensioners to be paid.
However, it’s man’s inhumanity to fellow man the way and manner he treated these pensioners by subjecting them to harsh verifications almost on yearly basis without payment . Even when he managed to pay them some months, he paid 40% of their actual entitlement, and looted the remaining 60%. These pensioners that protested last week should tell Imolites and Nigerians how Okorocha treated them. They should tell us how many months or years they were paid throughout the eight years
Okorocha was governor. Did they receive their pensions and gratuities up till May 29, 2019, when Okorocha left government ? Why are they protesting now just five months under the leadership of Governor Uzodimma? Did Okorocha treat them better and do they want Governor Uzodimma to treat them the same way and manner Okorocha treated them by slashing their entitlements to 40% ? Even the 40% Okorocha was wickedly paying them, did he pay as and when due till he left office? Before they demonize the relatively new government of Governor Uzodimma, they should cast their minds back and recall where they are coming from.
When Emeka Ihedioha took over from Okorocha, did he start paying them on the template set by Okorocha or did he subject them to a new verification? If Ihedioha verified them, when did he start paying them and where did he stop? If Ihedioha didn’t adopt Okorocha’s template of payment which he suspected to be fraudulent, why do they think now
that Governor Uzodimma doesn’t have the right to subject Ihedioha’s own template to further verification? Do they think that Ihedioha’s own template shouldn’t have been tampered with?.
It is high time these Imo pensioners conditioned their minds that every new government in the state will subject them to further verifications. It is unfortunate that they are going through another round of verification so soon after Ihedioha’s version. The circumstance of change of government necessitated that. Governor Uzodimma has not done anything unjust and inhumane to verify them again. They shouldn’t have expected the governor to adopt the template set by his predecessor.
If this writer happens to take over government from Governor Uzodimma in 2024, I will subject them to another verification. Adopting the figures and templates set by a predecessor for payment means that, assuming the predecessor inflated the figures of eligible pensioners, and filled them with ghost pensioners from his supporters or villagers, the sitting government will be paying those ghost pensioners criminally injected into the payroll by his predecessor for the next four or eight years. Let’s assume that the actual number of pensioners is 20,000, and the predecessor set a template of 40,000 on the payroll , Governor Uzodimma would unwittingly be paying the ghost 20,000 pensioners for the next four or eight years running into billions of naira. If the government is paying for instance, ₦1b every month to service pensioners, ₦500m would be going to ghost pensioners every month which may actually turn out to be his predecessor’s cartel or gang who will be sharing the money. Multiply ₦500m by 12 months in a year, then imagine how much the government might pay into the accounts of this cartel for the next four or eight years? This writer is not against pensioners agitating for their monthly stipends. My 74 – year old father is a pensioner. So, before you rain your abuses or invectives on me, you should know that I am equally involved in their plight and struggles. My biological father is part and parcel of pensioners, and I do not want him to starve or turn to a beggar on the streets with his bowl or plate.
The government also needs to work out a mechanism to check the fraud currently going on whereby dead pensioners continue to receive pension payment many years after their deaths without their relatives informing the government or even the pensioners’ union voluntarily informing the government.
On the part of pensioners, they should equally demonstrate sincerity and responsibility by doing the right thing at all times. The present propaganda of playing victims doesn’t help matters in any way. On the part of government, action should be expedited to conclude the verification once and for all under the present government. Their verification under this government should be once and for all whether this government will be in office for four or eight years. Would subsequent governments verify them again? That’s a certainty as I earlier stated the reasons.
Maduako, a media practitioner, writes from Owerri (08061562735)

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