Edo State Government has said that it will pay pension arrears and gratuities in phases, so as to reduce the state’s debt burden.
The government, in a statement, yesterday, said though dwindling crude production and oil prices affected revenue accruing to it from the Federal Government, it has prioritised the plight of pensioners in the face of competing needs in the different sectors of the state.
It dismissed reports that it owed 42 months in pension arrears, pointing out they (reports) “are false and a misinterpretation of facts.”
The government, while stressing it has been faithful to the purpose of the Paris Club Debt refund, which was disbursed to states for clearing salary, pension and gratuity arrears, however, noted that the fund available to it “is not and cannot be sufficient to settle pension arrears that have accumulated for over 20 years, jand added that “the Paris Club refund is not restricted to payment of pension arrears and gratuities, but for employees’ emoluments, also.”
It explained that only a few pensioners were owed multiple months of arrears, most of whom are captured under the Local Government Pension Board, an institution that is autonomous and independent of the Edo State Pension Bureau.
The state government acknowledged that pension arrears that led to recent protests spanned for over two decades but that in the principle of continuity in governance, it had put measures in place to address the issues.
“Matters concerning local government pensioners are separately handled by the Local Government Pension Board. Up till this moment, retirees in the local government service fall within the jurisdiction of the board. Be that as it may, the issues raised by the protesting pensioners of the local government service are better tackled by the board.
“Under the Edo State Contributory Pension Scheme Law, there is a unitary pension bureau that will take charge of the civil service and the council staff. When the Edo State Pension Bureau becomes fully operational, after inspection and certification by the National Pension Commission, it will take over the functions of the Local Government Pension Board.
This would be done after the commission conducts due diligence on the state of affairs of the board’s pension liabilities.” and current pension and gratuity payment status,” the statement said.
According to the government, some of the measures to address the pensioners’ debacle include phased payment of arrears, harmonising pension management system in the state and migration of state to the contributory scheme.
“We have committed to pay, in phases, all outstanding pension arrears and gratuities; ensure that retiring civil servants process their papers on time so that they can effortlessly transit from their salary payroll into pension payroll at the exact time of their exit from the civil service. This step, if carried through without default of the retiring staff and relevant authorities saddled with the processing of retirees documents, will eliminate the incidence of accumulation of pension arrears,” it said.
Besides, it explained that efforts have been made to harmonise pension management in the state, adding, “we have put up measures to consolidate and pursue the implementation of the contributory pension scheme. Necessary requirements to ensure a hitch-free payment of retirement benefits to civil servants who transited from the defined benefit scheme into the contributory pension scheme regulated by the pension commission have been met by the government.
”We have also committed to providing adequate attention to the needs of pensioners by prompt payment of monthly pensions and phased payment of gratuities that have been established and confirmed,” the statement added.
It called on pensioners and the public to exercise patience as the phased payment of the arrears takes its due course, assuring that measures have been put in place to ensure that the present issues don’t arise after it has been addressed in the state.