By Olu Adanikin/Oghenekparobo Ehvwubare
More revelations have emerge on why Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa led Delta State Government on Monday 7/11/2022 released N5 billion naira to retirees in the State. Findings revealed that out of the N5 billion naira approved, N2.5 billion naira was met for LG pensioners arrears out of the N10 billion naira promise made by the governor some time in March.
According to official of the pensioners union said “All plans have been perfected by the Concerned Delta State Local Government Contributory Retirees Forum to embark on what it called the mother of all protests”
According to the union, the protest was to draw attention to what the forum described as “failed N10 billion promises” made by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as well as the death of its members over the past eight months.
The union said Okowa in March promised to release N10 billion to retirees for the payment of their pensions, gratuities and other entitlements but has failed to fulfil his promise eight months down the line.
Rising from an enlarged meeting on Wednesday last week in Ughelli, the forum warned Okowa that should he fail to fulfil his promise within the next one week, he should be ready to witness the ‘mother of all protests’ in Asaba, the state capital in the next few days, a development of what made Okowa to approve the said N2.5 billion for the LG retirees.
How Delta State Government starved retirees to death amid pains, auguish
In what could be described as deliberate moves to deprived retirees of their rights, Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa led Delta state government seems to have for the past six years deliberately refused to pay the state retirees, leading to death of some retirees as result of their inability to care for themselves for lack of funds. Retirees in the State have suffered in pains, auguish while Okowa led government buffeted them with unfulfilled promises.
How retiree died riding Okada
On the evening of Wednesday, September 9, 2020, Ochade Ndude was returning from church around her Umusedeli home in Kwale, Ndokwa-West Local Government Area, Delta State, when one Okoli suddenly approached her and asked that she hurriedly mount his bike.
Frightened, her mind raced. She could not imagine what could have occurred until she summoned the courage.
What happened? she asked out of curiosity.
“Your husband just had an accident and broke his leg,” Okoli responded. The news shattered her mood. It was devastating, not realising there was more.
Ndude would later find out her 63-year-old husband, Francis Ochade, was knocked down by an oncoming vehicle on the highway to Asaba, the state capital.
By the time she got to the hospital, he was dead.
She has since resorted to farming and borrowing to feed her family. Before the incident, the Late Ochade, who retired as Primary School Headmaster in the state, had left home to ply his new trade – Okada business.
Having served the state government for 35 years, he left the public service in February 2017 and became a commercial motorcyclist “okada rider”.
At 63, the job became his new venture. This is due to the non-payment of his accrued pension rights and contributory pension benefits owed by the Delta State Government through the Bureau of Local Government Pensions, Asaba.
The late Ochade could not access his rightful benefits five years after retirement.
There are several others across the 25 LGAs in Delta. Correspondents confirmed Delta’s indebtedness to the retirees in the 2021 annual report Pension Commission (PenCom), published on June 22.
Ndude quickly adds that the need to meet the family obligation compelled her late husband to become a commercial motorcyclist even at old age.
“Since that day, life has been difficult, suffering with four children,” says Ndude. “We lack money to feed. The senior one just finished secondary school, there is a little one, and the other child went for a menial job so we could get something to eat.”
Okowa led Govt starved 91 retirees to death
Until his death, Ochade was a member of the Concerned Delta State Local Government Primary School Teachers’ Contributory Retirees. The group is an umbrella body of yet-to-be-paid primary school retirees in Delta.
Besides him, 24 other deceased members of the association in Kwale had died at one point or the other while struggling to access their retirement benefits. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa did not start paying the retirees until 2017, two years into his administration.
Many aggrieved retirees are either crippled with medical conditions or suffering from starvation.
On August 2, Investigative journalist met 30 other association members at Warri-South LGA where they were holding their monthly meetings.
Lori Patrick (63), leader of the retirees in the LGA, supervised the meeting. Towards the end of the session, Patrick presented a register of 66 members of the retirees who were announced dead.
Patrick had opened the register to document the deceased. The most recent was Philo Onoghere, whose fellow retirees say she died two weeks before this reporter’s visit.
|LIST OF DECEASED PRIMARY SCHOOL RETIREES IN WARRI-SOUTH LGA, DELTA STATE.|
|2||Mrs. Okpaghoro||V. O.|
|5||Aishatu||(Resides at Udu Road)|
|51||Mrs. Agbedetse||Obasuyi Juliet|
|57||Mrs. Helen||Akpene Amorighoye|
The list of deceased primary school retirees in Delta South. Source: The Concerned Delta State Local Government Primary School Teachers’ Contributory Retirees.
Philo retired in January 2022, but she was asked to continue working till March 2022 until a new teacher resumed, says many members of the group.
Just by count, about 91 deaths have been recorded from two LGAs yet the retired teachers spread across the 25 LGAs in Delta.
The retirees, however, believe their members might still be alive. And the funds would have come in handy to meet their health and socio-economic needs if not for the delayed payment of their retirement benefits.
Information Commissioner, Aniagwu contradicts aelf
Some time in August, while addressing news men in Asaba, The State commissioner of Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, absorbed State government from the responsibility of retirees arrears, said the Local government retirees was solely responsibilities of local governments and not State. This also raises the question of whether or not the LGs run in isolation. The answer is no, based on experts view.
But in a twist, same Mr. Charles Aniagwu Monday 07/11/2022 annouced Delta State Government resolved to release of five billion naira to pay retirees in the state.
“A statement by the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu on Monday 07/11/2022, said the sum of N2.5 billion was released for the payment of pension arrears for state pensioners while N2.5 billion was also released as grant to Local Government Pensions Bureau for the payment of Local Government and primary school retirees.”
Aniagwu lied about LGA retirees arrears–Investigation
Findings revealed that before teachers get recruited and promoted, the LGs get approval from the state. The state government also gives retirement clearance to LG retirees before accessing their pension benefits. Part of the process is visiting the Office of the Accountant-General of the state.
Promotions of primary school teachers from a certain level to become a headmaster come from the state. These are granted through the Delta State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), whose leadership is appointed by the Governor.
Correspondents gathered that the National Primary School Education Commission (FG), Delta State Primary Education Board, and the LG were jointly responsible for paying the primary school teachers from 1994 to 2005.
From 2006 to date, Delta SUBEB, and the LG, has been coordinating the primary schools in the state. Some concerned retirees shared copies of their employment letters with the letterhead conveying Bendel State to validate their arguments. Also shared were the promotion and clearance letters from Delta SUBEB, as the case may be.
Regardless, the controversy has led to seven repeated demonstrations against the Governor, who is hoping to emerge as Nigeria’s Vice President come 2023.