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Benue expends N700million monthly on pensions – Ortom

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom has revealed that the state government spends N700million monthly on payment of pensions in the past six months.

The Governor intimated that the release of N700 million monthly was based on an agreement reached between government and Pension union leaders in the state,
stressing that the recent protest by pensioners despite the subsisting agreement is unfortunate and may have been politically motivated.

Governor Ortom who disclosed this at the weekend in a chat with newsmen on his return from Abuja explained that the sum included N400m and N300m monthly payment to the State and Local Government pensioners respectively.

‘On the issue of pension, I’m really taken aback. But I think there is political undertone on this matter. When I came in 2015, I inherited over N70billion arreers of pension, gratuity and salaries. We have been able to reduce that to less than N35 billion as at today. I am the first Governor and administration that has been able to put in place a process that will bring a permanent solution to this problem.

While noting that pension and gratuity issues are national matters, Ortom said even the federal government as well as other states of the federation are still battling the same challenge.

‘But I have succeeded in domesticating pencom law. Already, we have invested more than N1.5billion in the pencom account. The idea is once we are able to reach up to N3billion threshold, we will be able to borrow money and clear the arrears and subsequently, all those who are retiring will not have the challenge of waiting for government to pay them.

‘They will go to pencom and as soon as you’re retiring, you can have your gratuity, you can have your pension. This is the effort that we have done as a government.

‘The officials of pensions in Benue State appreciate and commend me but we know we have arrears and we know we have to clear it. As I talk to you, every month, N700million is provided for pensioners for the past six months based on the agreement we reached with the pension union.

‘N400million at the state level is not enough to cover all the pensioners but at least, it is said that half a loaf is better than none. So, for every month, we are able to release N400million for pensioners in the state. And at the local government level, we release, N300million. That’s N700million.

So, I’m really taken aback when I heard that there was protest after we explained and we agreed that this is what we would do. Mind you, at the local government level, the pensioners are part of the local government allocation account. They are still there.

‘The pensioners are there, NULGE is there, National Union of Teachers (NUT) is there. So, it is not like somebody is taking money somewhere and not paying them or shortchanging them. But that not withstanding, these are our fathers and mothers.

‘Maybe they were not adequately informed by the officials of the union. I’ll make effort and persuade the officials of the union to tell them the agreement that we have reached.

The Governor assured that the monthly release of funds for pensions would be sustained despite the fact that it is affecting payment of overheads and other logistics in some Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs of government.

He said it has to be sustained in order to consistently address the plight of the senior citizens who served the state meritoriously and retired.

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