Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has said that his administration had not embarked on any staggered payment of pensioners as insinuated.
However, he explained that what the government did on assumption of duty to ease the problem encountered as a result of dubious record keeping was to pay pensioners as they were screened and verified.
The governor made the clarification at the Government House, Owerri, when he received the National Union of Pensioners led by their National President, Dr. Abel Afolayan who paid a courtesy call on him.
The group had told the governor that they were made to believe that Imo State was carrying out staggered pension’s payment.
Governor Uzodinma said: “There is no reasonable Nigerian who will not want to support the pensioners, but because of the situation of pensioners I met on ground, there seem to be delayed cordial relationship and slowed payment of pension allowances, I made them to understand that if there is anything I would do to improve the lives of the pensioners in Imo State I will not hesitate to do that.”
The governor painted an ugly situation he met on ground that included fraudulent manipulation of records to the advantage of pension administrators.
He described the fraud as monumental and that no reasonable administration would want to carry it over, hence he decided to “painstakingly scrutinise the records and raw data” made available to him which enabled his administration to establish true pensioners in Imo State.
Governor Uzodinma said: “The good story is that with these efforts, Imo State has gotten a near-master script that has resulted into close to 100 per cent clearance of all genuine pensioners in Imo State, and those owed pensions now are less than 900 and soon, all involved will get their allowances.”
He promised to continue to do those things that were possible to a pensioner now, which is guaranteed payment of pensioners’ allowances and remittance of their check-off dues which he said he had directed the Accountant General to create a dedicated account for. This, he emphasised, was to meet up with the World Bank requirement of quarterly publication of financial statements of state governments to qualify for its assistance.
He thanked the senior citizens for their visit which said was “ an opportunity to interact, intervene and show solidarity to their colleagues in Imo State and South East in general.”
Earlier, Dr. Afolayan had told the Governor that their visit was for three reasons.
First, to congratulate him on his assumption of office and wish him a successful tenure.
Secondly, to express their sincere respect and gratitude to the Governor on his resolve to bring back life to Nigerian pensioners in Imo State; thirdly, to put heads together in the way forward on the welfare of Imo State pensioners and their gratuities and to express confidence that the Governor will restore and rewrite the ugly history and stories of Imo pensioners made worse by past governments.
Dr. Afolayan apologised to the Governor on behalf of their colleagues following reports that a section of them embarked on violent protest to embarrass the government.
He reiterated that the NUP as a body did not preach violence or confrontation, rather members believe in dialogue and pleading. He described the protesting pensioners who took to violence as illegal and not representative of their ideals.
The NUP President told the Governor that they would like to have him ad their best friend for the simple reason that he would make his members smile by paying them their pension allowances and gratuities.