Godwin Obaseki, Edo State governor, on Monday frowned at the attitude of some of the pensioners in the state over their series of protests for the non-payment of arrears of their pension gratuities spanning several years before his taking over government.
The governor who said Edo State was the most pension friendly state in the country, despite her huge inherited indebtedness to state pensioners which amounted to over N3.9 billion pension arrears, noted that the problem was inherited from previous administrations and should not be used to tarnish his government’s image.
Obaseki made the declarations while addressing the pensioners on Monday during the Annual National Pensioners Day Celebration in Benin City, just as he revealed that his administration has been very fair to the senior citizens by paying pension on a monthly basis as against the perception created by some aggrieved pensioners.
While urging the pensioners to be fair and credit the government whenever credit is due it, he declared, “Let people not create confusion so that we can solve the problem of pensioners. We want to solve the pension problem by the grace of God, and we will resolve the problem. I cannot be intimidated.”
Obaseki who was visibly angry over the attitude of some of the pensioners said the problems of pensioners were not new to him as he was abreast of their predicament even before becoming the state governor, noting that as a result, he has put the issues of pensioners in the front burner.
He said, “The arrears of the pensioners were accumulated because between 1996 and 2000, no pension was paid. The arrears got to almost N10 billion. Governor Adams Oshiomhole in his wisdom as the governor then, put in place a scheme and we put everybody in batches. We have been paying those batches.
“From N10 billion, we are now under N4 billion, and people say we have not made progress. It is wicked when people do not admit and can’t say thank you for the small things we have done. Most of the pensioners know they are guilty, it is only a few that are trying to create confusion and with the present arrangement, the outstanding will be cleared within three years,” Obaseki said.
In his address, Comrade Pullen Noruwa, chairman, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Edo State Council, who said the celebration was an opportunity to appraise how Edo State pensioners have fared in the past one year vis-a-vis the payment of its members monthly pension, payment of pension benefits, the constraints and the way forward, however, pleaded with the governor to increase the monthly allocation from the present N100 million to N1 billion if the desired impart is to be felt.
He said, “You will agree with me that N100 million on monthly bases will not be able to clear the outstanding arrears in 10 years and most of those to benefit may die as a result of frustration and ill- health. The earlier the arrears are cleared, the better for both the government and the pensioners concerned.”
Noruwa, however, told members that the struggle to ensure the payment of pension benefits to the pensioners in the state has not been easy, adding, “This is so, because successive administration has refused to listen to the cry of the pensioners. The pension benefits of the pensioners are not addressed in spite of series of meetings/dialogue with the government until the arrival of the present administration in the state.”