• Govt faults PDP’s allegations, defends decision on pension
Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Ekiti State, yesterday alleged that the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi had colluded with the United Capital Plc to compel the state’s retired civil servants to sign 15 percent of their entitlements.
The state government, in a swift response, described the allegation as baseless and unfounded, saying the Fayemi administration had been paying N100 million monthly since 2018 to defray the backlog of pension and gratuity.
In a statement by its Secretary, Mr. Diran Odeyemi yesterday, the PDP Caretaker Committee said during his first tenure when Ekiti State was receiving as much as N7 billion as monthly allocation and over N46 billion from the Excess Crude Account, Fayemi refused to pay retirees.
The party described the state government’s new scheme in which pensioners desirous of getting their gratuities and pensions are made to sign off 15 percent of their entitlements as wicked callous and fraudulent.
Precisely in July 2012, the statement alleged that the Fayemi administration stopped allocating funds to the Pension Transition Arrangement Department.
The statement said: “We want to ask Fayemi if contractors in the state, who are being paid with borrowed funds, are also made to part with 15 percent of the contract sum as a condition to get paid.
“When Fayemi returned in 2018, he introduced favouritism to the payment of retirees’ entitlements. He chose to pay retired permanent secretaries who retired in 2018 and 2019 with gratuities ranging between N12 million and N15 million and monthly pension running to over N400, 000.00 each.”
However, the statement claimed that the low-ranking civil servants, who are the most vulnerable with gratuity of not more than N2 million and monthly pension less than N30, 000.00, were left unpaid.
The statement alleged that the state government wanted “to borrow over N40 billion to pay the pensioners. If a government is borrowing money that will be repaid by the pensioners and other indigenes of the state including those yet to be born, how sensible is it to still make the pensioners part with 15 percent of their entitlement?”
The statement, therefore, accused Fayemi of seeking to eat from the sweat of the pensioners, alleging that the governor will be getting10 percent out of the 15 percent to be deducted from the pensioners’ entitlement.
Faulting PDP’s allegations on a television programme yesterday, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Investment, Mr. Akin Oyebode explained that Ekiti had paid the pensioners N1.2 billion out of N14 billion owed, by paying N100 million monthly to defray the backlog of pension and gratuity.
Oyebode disclosed that Fayemi jacked up monthly payment of the arrears from N10 million being paid by the administration of former Governor Ayodele Fayose to N100 million monthly.
According to him, this indicated that the governor has the interest of the pensioners at heart and has no reason whatsoever to dupe them as alleged by the opposition.
Oyebode said COVID-19 has reduced the federal allocation accruing to the state, admitting that it was becoming practically impossible to pay pension and gratuity.
Oyebode said this explained why a special arrangement was made to pay the outstanding arrears with those who have interest in collecting whatever due to them now parting with 15 percent of their benefits.
He said: “Fayemi was not happy that people worked for 35 years without collecting what is due to them. The governor said with payment of N100 million monthly, some of the pensioners might not take their benefits till they die and that informed the reason we deliberated at the executive council to bring an investor to pay the money at once.
“Under this arrangement, what we intend to do is to bring an investor to pay the money to individual once with 15 percent deduction, but those who want to stick with monthly payment won’t suffer any deduction, they will be collecting it in tranches until it is paid. It is voluntary.
“But a pensioner might even negotiate for one or two years spread in payment and if that one is adopted, the percentage of deduction will be lower. The 15 percent is for those who want the money paid at once and it is not compulsory.
“We have not spent up to two years in office. We have already paid N1.2 billion unlike those who spent four years and paid only N440 million out of the arrears owed. We are determined to make them happy.
“We are assuring our pensioners that whatever arrangements we are putting in place shall involve all their members. They will participate in the arrangements and the best method that will make them happy shall be adopted.”