Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, on Friday, met with the protesting pensioners in the state, promising to release N611m to complete the payment of their April and May 2018 pension arrears latest by September 10, 2019.
The governor, who met the aggrieved pensioners at the entrance of the Government House in Makurdi where they had been sleeping in the last three days, said that the delay in the payment of their pensions was not deliberate.
The pensioners had, on Wednesday, stormed the Government House, Makurdi, to protest the non-payment of their pension allowances and gratuities which spanned 25 months.
Ortom explained to the senior citizens that his administration inherited unpaid pension allowances of over N34bn, with outstanding gratuities of over N17bn.
He said although his administration was able to make significant efforts in the payment of the arrears of pension and gratuities, government was still owing over N20bn.
The governor said that his administration would have to seek an overdraft of N611m to be able to complete the shortfalls from the April and May 2018, assuring that the money would be paid latest by September 10.
He further explained that his administration had also moved a step further by signing into law the PENCOM Bill and constituting the state pension commission as one of the ways of finding lasting solutions to the issue of pension and gratuities.
He said that government would continue to source for funds to meet its obligations to the citizens, especially the senior ones.
Ortom formally apologised to the senior citizens over the inability of the government to pay them their entitlement as and when due.
He told protesting pensioners that he was not happy with government’s inability inability to pay them their entitlements and promised to continue to source for funds to meet their demands.
The governor said that government was working on getting a N40bn bond to address some of the challenges currently facing the state.
“I am very ashamed before all of you and as a state, that I, as a governor, am seeing the precarious situation you are all in today.
“I have no reason to justify our inability to pay you your entitlements. Some of you are receiving very small amounts. We will look for ways to resolve this problem,” he said.
In his response, the Chairman of Concerned Pensioners, Mr Peter lkyado, expressed appreciation to the governor for taking 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 News 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 were met. DAILY POST