Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, today, 06 September 2019, met with pensioners protesting in front of the Government House Makurdi and promised to source for the sum of N611million to complete the payment of their April and May 2018 pensions, assuring that the money would be paid latest by September 10.
The governor, who met the aggrieved pensioners at the entrance of the Government House in Makurdi, who are protesting over non-payment of their pension allowances and gratuities for 25 months, and have been sleeping outside the Government House in the last three days, said that the delay in the payment of their pensions was not deliberate.
The Governor told the protesting pensioners that he was not happy with the government’s inability to pay them their entitlements and promised to continue to source for funds to meet their demands. He said that the state government was working on getting a N40 billion bond to address some of the challenges currently facing the state. The governor said that his administration would have to seek for an overdraft of N611 million to be able to complete the shortfalls from the April and May 2018.
The Governor explained that his administration inherited unpaid pension allowances of over N34 billion, with outstanding gratuities of over N17 billion. He said although his administration was able to make significant efforts in the payment of the arrears of pension and gratuities, but they are still owing over N20 billion.
The Governor also disclosed that his administration has moved a step further by signing the State law for the National Pension Commission Pension Act and constituting the state pension commission as one of the ways of finding lasting solutions to the issue of pension and gratuities in the State.
In his response, the Chairman of Concerned Pensioners, Mr Peter lkyado, expressed appreciation to the governor for taking the time to meet them and urged him to quickly meet their demands as promised.
He said that the pensioners were not happy over the non-payment of their pension allowances and gratuities which had accumulated to 25 months. Ikyado also said that his members were demanding for the harmonisation of their pensions in line with the new salary structure in the state.
He explained that as senior citizens, they were supposed to be placed on first-line charge, but regretted however that the reverse had been the case since the beginning of the Ortom-led administration.
A cross-section of the pensioners, who spoke with New Agency of Nigeria, insisted that they would not leave the entrance to the Government House where they had been protesting since Wednesday until their demands are met. Some senior citizens were seen still sleeping with their mats, hours after their meeting with the governor.