The current issue filling the State airspace lately is that of Pension and Gratuity of retired Primary School Teachers.
The discuss which has long been and will continue to be is indeed sad and calls for an immediate response.
Daily, we read of and hear varying degrees of lamentation by the affected persons, some in hospitals and unable to pay their bills; some sick and financially constrained to access quality healthcare; some now widowed, hungry, dying, helpless and even homeless.
These sad tales which negate the biblical principle that a worker is deserving of his wage, is no doubt one which should arouse the sympathy of every Akwa Ibomite.
In one of his briefings of the press earlier this year, Governor Udom Emmanuel had stated that he had paid 10 years of backlogs of pension and gratuity from 2010 upfront, which he inherited obviously, from the previous administration, which invariably implies that the present administration went out of its way to pay a debt it did not owe.
It therefore throws a puzzle on how the past administration was able to walk with its head and shoulders high up with such despicable debt as Worker’s Pension and Gratuities yet, was paying an extra-month salary – Akpabiomber?
How could the Akpabio-led administration have afforded to build monumental projects which consumed billions of naira; bought titles and academic degrees across the globe and advertised same on the pages of expensive national dailies, not have had money to settle an important, integral and paramount responsibility of paying retirees? What was the essence of doing all of that when workers would be made to cry in the end?
What economic value is the Ibom Tropicana to the State today, for instance? Yet, the same project consumed N61b. Or the Ibom Specialist Hospital and the 4-Point by Sheraton Hotel which have both gulped billions of money and are still uncompleted?
While we ponder on this, the present government has in its generosity paid 10 years backlog of pension and gratuity, with a promise to do more. This willingness to cater for the welfare of the citizenry, as enshrined in the principle of democracy is one of the primary responsibilities of leadership.
It should be noted properly that the Governor Emmanuel-led administration came on board in 2015 to meet this wrong and started correcting it in its magnanimity without putting blames on anyone or calling names. And while many are of the opinion that he came into the scene as SSG in July 2013 and was therefore part of the dubious system, the answer is that as at the time of his coming, all project expenditures and budget had been passed and attention drawn to the succession in the near front.
We would recall that there was a time in this state when money flowed like water from every angle; from excess crude oil, IGR, allocation, and every economic source one could think of. We know how much this state had in its coffers under the past administration yet, it could not pay the entitlements of retired workers.
According to the State’s Head of Service, Elder Effiong Essien, the debt owed of over 10 years is a pain in the neck which the government paid to enable it concentrate on newer pensions and gratuities. “He first cleared the 10 years backlog he inherited and for any left over of these entitlements, government has been giving assurance that it would be taken care of as far as there are genuine entitlements of the beneficiaries”, Essien had said while speaking on Akwa Ibom Mandate.
He had said that the Association of Pensioners in the State have been constantly updated and will be called together as soon as it becomes possible to gather.
“The important thing is that assurance has been given that action will be taken on this matter. There is no denial”, he concluded.
To this end, it is good we know that the government of Udom Emmanuel is passionate and concerned about this issue and only needs to be empathized with and shown support and patience.
This is no time to mount pressure on the government for this misfortune. We should also understand that the time and present economy we’ve found ourselves is not the same.
A senior civil servant in Akwa Ibom State, Precious Ndarake could be reach through email@example.com