Benue Govt Owing over N22bn Gratuity, Says Ortom

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Ortom

• Court orders CBN to pay Tiv communities N8bn over soldiers’ invasion

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom has disclosed that the state government is owing over N22 billion as gratuity of the state’s workers.

This is coming as Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to immediately pay the sum of N8billion awarded in favour of some Tiv communities.

Ortom stated this yesterday during the inauguration of the Chairman and members of the State Pension Commission in Makurdi, the state capital.

He disclosed that he inherited N18 billion gratuity liability in 2015, and that because of paucity of funds to upset the debt coupled with additional number of retired workers overtime, the debt had risen to N22 billion.

He further disclosed that the monthly pension bill of the state was now N800 million as against the N400 million bill he inherited in 2015.

The governor said the state needed to urgently commence full domestication of the National Contributory Pensions Scheme Act 2004 to mitigate the sufferings of retirees.

He specially commended the 8th State Assembly for passing the Pencom Bill and expressed optimism that in no distant time retirees would have cause to smile home after retirement.

“The members are all victims of non-payment of gratuities and pensions; so, they understand the pains of not being paid.

“Benue pensioners have been very patient with me and that has given me a lot of burden on my shoulder to ensure that something is done about it urgently,” he said.

Meanwhile, Justice Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, has ordered the CBN to immediately pay the sum of N8 billion awarded in favour of some Tiv communities.

The order was in respect of a judgment debt awarded against the federal government in 2015.

A Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal had entered judgment in favour of the plaintiffs but the government was yet to comply with the decision of the court, resulting in the garnishee order.

Fourteen persons who had suffered various degrees of losses during the military attack had applied to the court to enforce the consent judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal in Enugu on February 2, 2015.

The plaintiffs include Dr. Alexander Gaadi, Peter Orngu, Terfa Akaagba, Anongo Unishigh, Ngunengen Adula, Demelu Adula, Zaki Mazan, Mbakesen Ayatse, Mbayemen Maswuan, Anande Agashia, Azenda Igo, Elizabeth Aoughakaa, and Andrew Juntu.

The affected communities spread across Logo, Ukum, Kwande and Katsina-Ala Local Government Areas of the state.

In his ruling on the garnishee application yesterday, Justice Ekwo held that there was nothing standing as impediment to the payment of the N8 billion since the respondents had consented to it at the Court of Appeal.

According to him, since the judgment debtors/appellants entered into terms entered by the Court of Appeal in appeal number CA/E/410/2008 as judgment of February 2, 2015, it was a clear and unambiguous expression and readiness of the judgment debtors to pay the sum agreed therein to the ganishors.

“Upon studying the averments in the six-paragraph affidavit to show cause deposed to on March 28, 2017 by one Huseini Sani Kagai, and three-paragraph further affidavit showing cause deposd to on May 8, 2017, by the same Huseini Sani Kagai, I am unable to see any contrary issue or impediment established by the garnishee that would constitute a cause shown by the garnishee why the order nisi these proceedings ought not to be made absolute and I so hold.”

The judge subsequently ordered the garnishee (CBN) “to pay the garnishee sum into an interest-yielding account to be opened and maintained by the Chief Registrar of this court in First Bank of Nigeria Plc.

“The order authorising the disbursement of the money shall be made upon being satisfied with the terms of disbursement including the legal fees jointly singed by Ocha Ulegede, Esq, and J.K Gadzama, (SAN), for the ganishors and endorsed by first class chiefs of Jukun, Logo, Kwande, Katsina-Ala local government areas on behalf of the Tiv Traditional Council.”

The judge added that he would subsequently make an order for the disbursement of the money after the CBN complies with the order for the payment.

The plaintiffs in two separate suits instituted urged the court to declare the use of the army as genocidal, and the continued occupation of their communities by the soldiers as undemocratic and unconstitutional.