Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma says that verified state pensioners and government workers, including teachers, have been paid their pension and salaries up to the month of June.
The governor made the announcement at a meeting with the leadership of organised labour comprising the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the National Union of Pensioners (NUP) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) at government house, Owerri.
The governor, in a press statement he made available through his Chief Press Secretary/Special Adviser on media, Oguwuike Nwachukwu, explained that the delay in payment of a few months of pensions was caused by the fraud discovered in the pension payroll which halted the payments to enable the government to cleanse the system.
The governor said he will not be a party to denying senior citizens who spend a better part of their lives working for the state their legitimate right to their pensions but added that it was necessary to also secure the future of the senior citizens by stopping a few criminals from defrauding the state of millions of naira in the name of the pensioners.
Meanwhile, Uzodinma has named eight persons involved in fraudulent activities in the payment and receiving of pensions in the State.
The eight names he said were earning N330 million annually as pension. According to the governor, one of them is late Ekedere Eunice who earns N32,490,016, while another one is a retired judge who he said was earning N300,000 monthly above what was due to him as pension.
Also, a late Secretary to the State Government (SSG) he said was still earning pension many years after his death.
Others announced by the governor who receive their pensions annually in that sum are Ajokubi HA, (N65,685,491) Njoku Damian (N 5,042,439), Obasi Canice (N3,460,366.64), Anyanwu FN (N150,336), Emenalo Theresa (N3,058,592), John Sunday (N2,320624) and Ajaegbo EO (N2,298,910.34).
Uzodinma revealed that so many irregularities had marred the pension system, forcing him to investigate further into the payroll of retired workers where it was discovered that over a thousand pensioners who retired in 1976 were still receiving pension, wondering how many people aged 104 were still alive.
He noted that over-inflated pensions were paid to numerous pensioners which on the investigation was not consistent with their last payslips or basic salaries as stipulated by the pensions act.
He said the decision to automate the payment process was in line with the new World Bank order for all states and pointed out that the delay was due to the fact that there was no handover from the former administration to his.
Uzodinma said: ‘The good news was that as at yesterday all pensioners in the verified database had been paid up to date and said those who had issues with their data would have to resolve them before they can receive payment.’
Governor Uzodinma declared that by next week, other names of all the persons milking the state through pensions and salary payroll fraud would be made public.
In their separate remarks the NLC and NUP chairmen, Austin Chilakpu and Sir JB Ugochukwu, respectively, appreciated the open-door policy of the governor and tendered their apology for the protest by some members of the union while dialogue and negotiation were ongoing.
They expressed their total support and cooperation with the government to achieve its goals for the state.