What did the leadership of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Delta State do with N5.9 million unremitted deduction that accrued during the zero allocation era to the Local Government Pension Bureau?
This is the puzzle that local government and primary school retirees in Delta State are asking Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to help them to unknot as they seek intervention of the state government during a long protest procession on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.
In the protest which took them to the House of Assembly where they met a locked gate and the Government House, Asaba where security operatives prevented them from gaining access through the locked gate, the aged men and women, otherwise called senior citizens who have retired from service having served 35 years or attained 60 years of age in service, they made a save our souls call to the governor and the speaker of the House of assembly, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, urging them to intervene urgently and save them from undue delay in the payment of their retirement benefits.
In their SOS to the Speaker, signed by Comrade Mode Augustine and Sir Henry Tukpe, they asked: “What then could be the reasons(s) for retirees in the local government and /primary schools in Delta State to be denied access to funds they contributed to from their salaries to save for old age after over four to five years after retirement.”
Reeling out various financial statistics to drive home their points, the retirees said it had become necessary for the government to look into their grievances and that one measure that could be used to assuage their feelings is to compel the state leadership of ALGON and the Accountant General to pay the sum of N5.9 billion unremitted deductions that accrued during the zero allocation eras. This prompted observers to ask: What did the Delta State ALGON leadership do with the accrued N5.9 billion unremitted deductions? And where is the money?
In a letter addressed to the Speaker and signed by Chief (Mrs.) Ejieh Helen C, Chairman Association of Contributory Retirees (ACR) and Prince Etuwede G.U., secretary, with copies made available to journalists, the retirees stated: “Between May 2015 –January 2017, a period of 21 months, nobody was paid his/her gratuity/pensions in the local government/primary school in Delta State. This situation led to the protest which was embarked on 3rdOctober, 2017. During the protest the Head of Service met with the Executive members of our Association and assured us that His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has promised to remember the retirees when the Paris Fund is remitted to the state.
“Between 2017-2018, the Paris Fund that came to the state, none was paid to Local Government Bureau, for our gratuity/pension benefits.
“To worsen the situation, since the local government became autonomous, we became hopeful but unfortunately the opposite is the case. All the monies sent to the local government by the Federal Government to pay the local government primary school retirees in the month of June 2019 till date, that would have paid so many retirees has been withheld by the Association of Local Governments (ALGON).
“Consequent on this premise, we decided to write to the Local Government Bureau, the Chairman of all Chairmen of Delta State Local Government Council (ALGON) and His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, through the Head of Service, Delta state to express our displeasure and plead for increase in the amount remitted to Local Government Bureau to cover more retires. All our plea was not listened to and as a result, we planned for another protest on the 14th of July, 2020.
“When the Head of Service heard about our planned protest, he invited us to his office on 26th June, 2020. There, we resolved not to go on the protest slated for 14 July, 2020 on the ground that our request will be looked into on or before the date of the propose protest.
“Till now the government has not done anything concerning all our plea and demands. The most annoying thing is that we all live in the same state and go to the same market. Our counterparts in government public schools who retired in 2018 have received their gratuity and receive pensions monthly. Why is the government treating us with disdain? A large number of our retirees have died and some have suffered ill-health unduly as a result of the delayed payment.”