–Mudiaga Affe, Calabar
Local government retirees in Cross River State this past Tuesday gave Governor Ben Ayade a one-month ultimatum to commence the payment of their 11 years’ backlog of gratuities and pension arrears amounting to over N9bn.
The state Chairman, Association of Local Government Pensioners, Mr. Bassey Okosin, who gave this ultimatum at a press conference in Calabar, said members of the association were being owed gratuities and arrears from 2007 to 2018.
Okosin expressed displeasure over the neglect of local government retirees in the state, adding that the retirees would occupy all government offices in the state if their demands were not met between now and February 16.
He said, “Our state governor has received one part of the bailout funds and two tranches of the Paris Club Refund, yet no single local government retiree has been paid. We heard that the Federal Government released the funds for the primary purpose of clearing all outstanding salaries, pensions and gratuities; why then are we not paid?
“As of today, we have an average of 25 local government workers retiring from service monthly. If we don’t receive this money under one month, the 5,600 pensioners in Cross River will occupy all relevant government offices until our entitlements are paid.
“Some people who are retiring now can no longer be captured on the nominal roll because, from what we heard, the list is full. We are appealing to the state government to allocate some of the money received to us. In addition, we want the state government to allocate 15 per cent of the monthly federal allocation to retirees.”
Okosin added that the issue of over 600 names of local government pensioners that were omitted by a consultant during the 2016 personal audit exercise was still outstanding.
“Having exhausted all known means of reaching out to the relevant arms of government without result, we have taken a decision to pack our loads to live in all the offices that are responsible for the payment of these entitlements until further notice.
“This is not a threat, but what is likely going to happen in the next one month. All our members have mobilised themselves from all the 18 local government areas of the state for this exercise,” he said.
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