Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has signed the 2023 appropriation bill of N389.37 billion into law.
He also signed a bill on the state’s Contributory Pension Scheme for civil servants, local government workers and political appointees.
Presenting the two bills for assent at the Government House in Yenagoa, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Abraham Ingobere, explained that the state and local government workers would be required to contribute eight per cent of their salaries toward their retirement, while the state government and local government councils as their employers would contribute 10 per cent on their behalf.
Also, he noted that political office holders were expected to contribute 10 per cent of their salaries while the state government and local government councils contribute 15 per cent on their behalf upon their retirement or disengagement from the service.
On the 2023 budget, Ingobere said the initial amount presented to the assembly for consideration was N385.21 billion, but after consultation with ministries, departments and agencies, the figure was increased by N4 billion bringing the total amount to N389.37 billion for the 2023 fiscal year.
While assenting to the bills, Diri said the contributory pension law would put an end to the long delay and harrowing experience retirees go through before receiving their gratuities and other entitlements.
The governor stressed that the pension scheme had to be backed by law because of its importance, which he noted would outlive his administration.
According to him, the scheme covers all employees of the state as well as political office holders both at the state and local government levels.
He noted that through the contributory and collaborative approach, the scheme provides that the employer shall contribute 10 per cent of their consolidated monthly salaries while the employee shall contribute eight per cent of the consolidated monthly salary as provided by the third schedule of the law.
Diri assured workers that government would ensure that proper machinery was put in place to engage only reputable pension fund administrators to manage the funds in accordance with pension regulations.
He said: “Upon assumption of office, we discovered that some of our elder statesmen that had served our state meritoriously over the period had died without collecting their gratuity. Most of them have been owed in arrears to the tune of billions of naira.
“l sat with my team to fashion out a way to pay off these elder statesmen. What we are doing is a policy of government and we thought it needed to be backed by law. That was why we sent an Executive Bill to the House of Assembly to cater for our retirees.”
He equally assured that over N28 billion arrears would be paid off within the first tenure of his administration.
“When we assumed office (in February 2020), a minimum of N200 million monthly was made available for the payment of gratuities and we have been doing that faithfully. And in some months, we increased it to N500 million.
“Till date, an average of N862.6 million has been expended monthly on pension issues. Also, N7.58 billion has been paid as gratuity and death benefits from February 2020 till date. However, in spite of these payments made, the huge liability of over N28 billion for outstanding gratuity and death benefits from 2007 till date still stands.
“Going forward, we will ensure that the over N28 billion owed retirees is paid off within my first term in office.”