• I inherited 10 years pension arrears from PDP govt, says gov
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Edo State, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has described as a “fleshy tissue, of lies,’’ statements credited to Governor Adams Oshiomhole recently that he could not be held responsible for the woes of local government council’s workers who are being owed 10 to 18-month salaries.
In statement by his campaign organization on Thursday, Ize-Iyamu said the diversion and misapplication of the local government’s allocation by Oshiomhole-led state government was responsible for the inability of many of the local government councils to meet their monthly obligation to their workers.
The campaign organisation therefore called on the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate how nearly N400 billion the 18 local government councils in the state got as federal allocation in nearly eight years was spent.
“Records from the Federal Ministry of Finance show that the 18 local government councils in the state have received nearly N400 billion, as federal allocation in nearly eight years. This is outside the internal generated revenue the state also collects on behalf of the council monthly,’’ the statement stated.
“And from what we gathered from many of the council authorities, Oshiomhole only pays each local government chairman or sole administrator N1.7 million monthly as security allowance — from the allocation, and the councils do not know how the huge balance is spent.
“So Oshiomhole lied when he said the state government was not responsible for the failure of local government authorities to pay their workers. He diverted and misapplied their funds for personal interest, and he must account for the huge funds.’’
Describing Oshiomhole’s boast that he met the monthly wage obligation to the state workers, as “empty and bare,’’ the campaign organisation said there was no way the out-going governor would not have been able to pay less 2,000 workers with the huge financial resources accruing to the state monthly.
The PDP campaign organisation added: “Edo State government today has less than 2,000 workers, compare to eight years ago, when workers on the payroll of the state government were over 13,000. Oshiomhole has decimated the state civil service his government inherited nearly eight years ago. So, he should not see his ability to pay less than 2,000 workers monthly as an achievement.’’
“Ize-Iyamu will promote actively the involvement of non-governmental and community-based organisations, as well as other elements of civil society in order to raise public awareness about dishonesty and corruption in public services.’’
However, Oshiomhole, said he had to settle 10 years pension arrears inherited from by the PDP government.
The governor in an interaction with State House Correspondents late Wednesday night, said he met a lot of financial mess on ground with the sack of about 7,000 workers and permanent secretaries by his predecessors.
He said having cleared 10 years pension and gratuities arrears, only four years remained outstanding.
He however, gave the assurance that his administration would settle part of the four years pensions outstanding before handing over power to a new government.
He said: “The problem PDP has in Edo State is very clear to everyone. First, they had the privilege of presiding over the state for 10 years, from 1999 to 2008. During this period, their records with regard to workers are clear.
“First, on assumption of office in 1999, PDP government sacked all permanent secretaries because they needed their agencies as permanent secretaries. They had to sack the ones they met and appoint fresh ones.
“The following year, 2000, they sacked over 7,000 civil servants and none of them was paid gratuity or pension. From 1998 when the army left to 1999 and to the end of 2008 when I took over, that was a period of 13 years.”
He continued: “So we found a pension bill of 13 years arrears of gratuity and pension not paid by the PDP government including the 7,000 people they dismissed.
“When I assumed duties at the end of 2008, I had two options. There was this temptation to say that I would be paying those who retired during my tenure. But as a former labour leader, I asked myself that if an employer was so callous to carry out massive retrenchment of workers as the PDP did by sacking 7,000 and permanent secretaries and did not pay them gratuity, is it the fault of those workers?
“So, I accepted the fact that government is a continuum. So as we speak today, we have paid all those who pensioned in 1998 and 1999, all those they dismissed in 2000 and those who retired from 2001 to 2011.
“So, I have paid pension arrears of 13 years even though I have been in government for only seven years plus.
“If I have limited myself to pension bills arising from those who retired during my tenure, I would have paid more than double.
“For every year that I have been in office, I have to budget for pension for two years. I have systematically brought it back from 13 years arrears to about four years, 2012 to 2015. So I believe we have done well.”
He said when he assumed office, pensioners in Edo State did not get their pension until they went to the streets and some of them died in the process.
“But today, those who are already on our pension list, whose gratuity has not been paid, they pay them pensions the same day that we pay salaries.
“We are not in arrears of one month pension to those who are already in the scheme. I am proud to say that, talking about leaving arrears, I met 13 years arrears and I have reduced it to four years. Before the end of my tenure, we will still pay more and that number of years will still be further reduced,” he added.