Amid worsening economy and standard of living in the country, the Enugu State governor, Dr. Peter Mbah has raised the hope of retired primary school teachers and other local government retirees in the state by inaugurating a committee on the “Verification and Payment of Outstanding Pensions and Gratuities to Local Government Staff and Primary School Teachers.”
The governor, while inaugurating the 9-member committee at the Government House, Enugu on Wednesday, said the decision was in continuation of his commitment to ensuring that retirees who had served and helped in building the state were rewarded with their entitlements.
He recalled that a similar committee was recently constituted at the state level to clear the outstanding pensions and gratuities owed civil servants since 2006, adding that the decision was in fulfillment of his campaign promise to the people.
Governor Mbah, who charged the committee to reflect their integrity and experiences on the assignment given them, said the team was selected based on some critical consideration bordering on their track records and credibility in life.
He further disclosed that the committee at the state level, which would serve as a guide, had done extensive work and was expected to submit its report and recommendations on Friday.
The governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof Chidiebere Onyia, expressed confidence in the integrity of the members of the committee, even as he enjoined them to justify their selection into the all-important team by upholding the hope of the people and what the government represents.
The terms of reference of the committee include, verifying and determining all outstanding pensions and gratuities due to local government staff and primary school teachers; verifying and determining the total number of local government retirees that are primary school teachers and local government staff; to recommend an appropriate plan or module for payment of all the verified pensions and gratuities, and to submit their findings and report within three weeks of its inauguration.
“This is the continuation of our passion to ensure that there is an equitable approach to the way pensions and gratuity matter is being addressed.
“We have taken out time to inaugurate the state level team and they have been working diligently. We will all agree that verification is critical to the success of this project. So, what you are going to be doing is almost mirroring what is being done at the state level, but because that of local governments might be a bit complex, we needed the level of experience of the people we have here.
“The Chairman of the committee, Rev. Fr. Nnamdi Ambrose Nwankwo, is someone we can trust and hold to a very high esteem. Your recommendations will determine what my administration does as a policy declaration after you have also submitted your report.
“By this Friday, the State Committee on Pensions and Gratuities will be handing in their report.
“You have a duration of three weeks to do yours. Yours is going to be looking at the data we have already; see if they are credible and the processes. That is why your selection is very critical.
“We have confidence that you will provide that level of expertise and credibility to the process. Like I said to the committee at the state level, which the SSG chairs; two things are very important: hope and credibility. These are very important because you are dealing with people who have invested all their lives to build the state. Hope is important here, and the integrity of the process is critical. We are hoping this team will reflect it in its entirety and in everything it does.
“We are confident this team will provide the necessary decisions, support and recommendations for us to be able to act on the next step to this journey that we have started in meeting our pensions and gratuities’ obligations,” the governor said.
Reacting to their inauguration, the chairman of the committee who also doubles as Rector, Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo, Fr. Nwankwo pledged that the team would not disappoint the government and the people of the state as they had what it took to deliver on the assignment.
He vowed that the team would come up with plausible and outstanding suggestions that would be beneficial to the people, especially those retirees who were in urgent need of the succour the governor would avail them.
“I want to appreciate the governor for the passion shown to the people, especially to those who have suffered and contributed to the progress of this state and are now in their retirement,” Fr. Nwankwo said.
He added that the committee would do its best to help the government in extending the gesture to the people, describing the act as a timely relief that would get to those involved.
Other members of the committee include, Donatus Achi, a retired Sermanent Secretary, Comrade Ike Ekere, State Chairman, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Theophilus Nweke Odo, State Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Kenneth Ugwueze, State Chairman, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Adenike Okebu, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Revenue, Larry Oguego, human rights activist, Chinedu Ngene from the State Audit Department and Prof. Obiamaka Egbo, Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Finance, who will serve as secretary of the committee.