Tackling Pension, Gratuity Nightmare in Katsina

0

Despite inheriting backlog of pension and gratuities, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State is taming the conundrum with limited resources available, writes Francis Sardauna

Normally, the payment of pension, gratuity and salary to civil servants and other government workers ought not to be a predicament because these are statutory duties of government at both state and federal levels.

Unfortunately, the failure of government to pay retirees’ their entitlements has made pension payment a very cumbersome issue in most states of the federation.

A worker who has served the state and attained retirement should be entitled to the payment of his or her pension and gratuities because he has invested his time, energy and productive part of his life in public service.

Sadly, the pension and gratuities of the retirees crumble in most cases, as they are left in a desperate situation. Many die in the process without getting the pension or without enjoying the fruit of their labour as enshrined in the constitution.

But in Katsina, despite the economic quagmire and security challenges bedeviling the state, Governor Aminu Bello Masari-led administration has eradicated the unbridled systemic corruption through prompt payment of pension and gratuities of the senior citizens.

The governor on assumption of office in 2015, inherited backlog of pension and gratuities, including death benefits of state, local governments and local education authorities retirees, amounting to billions of naira but is frantically taming the conundrum.

Irked by the gory condition of the retired public servants, the governor immediately ordered the payment of their entitlements and death benefits to the families of the slain senior citizens to assuage their predicaments.

Accordingly, between June 2015 to August 2020, the administration paid a whooping sum of N18,953,705,212.39 as pension and N10,667,824,773.80 as gratuity to the retirees under the state payroll, amounting to N29,621,529,983.19.

Similarly, the Masari-led government also cleared the local governments N24,002,208,098.00 pension between June to August 2020 and gratuity of N17,368,300,524.26 to enable the beneficiaries successfully tackle their perennial challenges.

There is no gainsaying therefore that the state government under the leadership of Governor Masari had between June 2015 and August this year, expended the sum of N70,992,038,405.45 on state, local government and local government education authorities retirees.

To sustain an efficient and corrupt-free pension scheme and sustainable payment of retirement benefits to workers in the state, Governor Masari has since presented a bill before the State House of Assembly for the establishment of a Defined Contributory Pension Scheme.

The first of its kind bill when pass into law, both the government and workforce would contribute monthly and the workers will be receiving lump sum gratuity and pensions like what is obtained in the current system as government will not allow pension fund administrators to determine how to pay civil servants their hard earned retirement benefits.

The giant strides are evidenced by what the State Head of Service, Mr. Idris Tune, told reporters at the General Muhammadu Buhari’s House in Katsina while unveiling the state government’s scorecard under his office.

He said: “At the inception of the present administration in May 2015, it inherited backlog of gratuities and death benefits for retirees of state, local governments and local education authorities.

“The summary of payment of pension and gratuities made by the present administration are as follows; retirees at state level were paid N18,953,705,212.39 as pension between June 2015 to August 2020, while the sum of N10,667,824,773.80 was also paid as gratuity within the period under review.

“At the local government level, between June 2015 to August 2020, we paid pensioners the sum of N24,002,208,098.00 and N17,368,300,524.26 was also paid as gratuity between June 2015 and August, 2020. The total pension and gratuities paid between June 2015 to August 2020 is N70,992,038,405.45”.

Tune reaffirmed that when the present administration took over the mantle of leadership in May 2015, the official quarters occupied by civil servants were mostly dilapidated and government formed a technical committee which swung into action by assessing the structures.

According to him,”to this end, a technical committee was formed that went round to rehabitate the dilapidated structures. The committee successfully rehabitated and upgraded 343 houses across the state at the total cost of N251,664,095.00″.

He explained that the state government had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Hayat and Sadiq Nigeria Limited, Artigrat Limited, Merit Homes and Properties Limited and Safaz and Shelter Limited for the provision of additional affordable houses to its workforce.

Meanwhile, despite the limited resources available, Masari has graciously implemented the new national minimum wage to workers earning below N30,000 and sequential adjustment of those earning above N30,000 in order to maintain salary gaps across grade levels and steps of different salary structures in the state.

Additionally, the Governor Masari-led government has prioritised prompt payment of monthly salaries to workers as and when due without interruptions as every woker in the state receives his take home pay latest by 25th of each month.

Furthermore, the administration had between June 2015 and August 2020, recruited 3,667 to replace those who left the services of the ministries, department and agencies as a result of compulsory retirement or death.

Considering the promotion of staff as motivation mechanism for them to put in their best for the development of the state, the governor has approved the promotion of 2002 workers due for promotion to the management level (GL13 and above) between June, 2015 to April 2020.

The state government also sponsored the training and retraining of 2,092 civil servants for both long and short-term in-service and overseas training to enhance effective service delivery.

It also resuscitated payment refurbishing revolving loan to civil servants in the state which was hitherto abandoned by the previous administration. So far, a sum of N450,630,000.00 has been disbursed to 4,878 beneficiaries between 2017 to date.

To improve the quality of life of workers and their families, the administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the organized labour for the State Contributory Healthcare Management Agency to be providing adequate and affordable healthcare services to all categories of public servants in the state and local government level effective from January 2021.

Therefore, with this first-ever tremendous achievements recorded by Masari’s administration in tackling pension and gratuity nightmare, the senior citizens who are beneficiaries of this life changing initiatives are expected to profer solutions for speedy development and economic recovery of the state.