***Beg Gov to clear 3 years gratuity arrears
***We inherited N11bn liabilities, spent over N70bn on pensions, gratuities – GovtJanuary 31, 2022
Unlike most pensioners in other states, Katsina State pensioners are among the few states that receive monthly pensions as and when due. But like many other states, they are also among the states with accumulated gratuities. However, unlike many states, the state government is battling with just three years backlog of unpaid gratuities.
According to the chairman of the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Mahabu Balarabe, gratuities were last paid to retirees in 2018.
Mahabu, while speaking with Vanguard said: “Our pensioners are paid regularly by the state government. In fact, we are paid a day or two earlier before workers in the state. The payment of pension is designed in such a way that immediately you retire, the payment of your pension commences the following month.
“There is the need for the state government to do an upward review of the minimum pension as it has not been reviewed since the minimum wage was N18,000 and even now that it is N30,000. Section 173 of the Nigeria Constitution provides that pensions shall be reviewed every five years or together with any Federal Civil Service salary reviews, whichever is earlier.
“The state government is yet to implement the executive bill passed into law by the state House of Assembly for the establishment of a Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, to help address the issue of pensions in the state.”
Confirming the unpaid gratuities, the state Head of Civil Service, HoS, Idris Tune said: “Paucity of funds was responsible for the delay in the payment of gratuities. However, plans are underway to pay gratuities to those who retired between 2019 and 2020 very soon while others will be paid in due course within the life time of the Masari administration.
“What truncated the smooth payment of gratuities in the state particularly is the COVID-19 challenges. What we were earning from the centre could barely pay salary and pension. The gap created to meet other basic essentials, particularly the security challenge, neutralized the margin that we have to be paying gratuities. So, it is a matter of no choice for the government because there are issues that can wait and issues that cannot. Since coming on board, the Governor Aminu Bello Masari-led government has consistently ensured that the over 25,000 retirees in the state are paid their monthly pension as and when due.
The Masari-led government said it inherited a backlog of gratuities and pension debt to the tune of about N11 billion from the previous administration of Ibrahim Shehu Shema of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. The state government was able to clear the debt with almost the entire CBN bailout funds it applied for. However, for the pending 2019 to 2021 backlog of gratuities, Tune said the state government is spending N3 billion to tackle it.
“Governor Masari has given the assurance that he will exit office without a debt of gratuities. That, he has assured, and that is why this lump sum is being injected very soon.”
On how soon the payment of the backlog of gratuities will commence, Tune said: “It may happen before the end of the first quarter as the process has started since the end of last year. I believe that the process will be completed before the end of the first quarter of 2022 God willing. From the inception of the Masari-led government in May 2019 to date, the state government has expended N70, 992, 038, 405, 45 for state and local governments on gratuities and pension payment.
On the non-implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, Tune attributed the delay to some vital observations made by the National Pension Commission, PenCom, requiring the state assembly to amend the draft law before the executive will give its assent.
He said: “Giving the benefits and the necessities of implementing the Contributory Pension Scheme, Katsina State will soon join other states of the federation that have gone far in the implementation, leaving the old arena of pay- as-you go which is no longer sustainable and no longer fashionable.”