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After ICIR investigation, Niger state approves N25bn for payment of pensions, gratuities

By Hamzat Ibrahim ABAGA

BARELY four months after an ICIR-funded investigation titled “Left to suffer: Retirees live in penury aa Niger government defaults on benefits” revealed how the Niger State government failed to pay retirees their retirement benefits, the state Governor Umar Bago on May 29 approved the immediate release of N25 billion for the payment of outstanding pensions and gratuities.

The governor made the announcement in Minna, the state capital to mark his one year in office.

The chairman, Niger State Retirees Pressure Group, Steven Daniel Zitta, confirmed to The ICIR that the state pension board was already preparing for the commencement of disbursement shortly after the announcement was made.

“The pension board reached out to us that they are preparing for the payment of the fund to the retirees. If you go to the office now, you will see that they have commenced work despite strike. And when the disbursement commences it is not going to be hidden, everyone will hear it”, Zida said.

The investigation revealed that several retirees, including Bello Mustapha, found it inconceivable that despite their dedicated years of active duty and commitment to serving the government of Niger State, they would eventually find themselves reduced to beggars as a result of the government’s failure to fulfil its obligation of paying their pension.

Mustapha retired in 2018 and has been waiting for his pension and gratuity.

To compound his misfortunes, he was diagnosed with a debilitating eye ailment that necessitated a surgical procedure. Although he managed to scrape together enough funds to cover the expenses for the initial operation, he was financially incapacitated when his doctor scheduled a second one.

Unfortunately, his troubles did not end there. In an unexpected turn of events, he experienced a partial loss of vision, which was a devastating blow. His problem aggravated in 2019 when he completely lost his sight.

Sharing his plight with The ICIR, Mustapha revealed that when his child secured university admission, he couldn’t afford the registration fees due to poverty and government negligence in disbursing his retirement benefits.

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The report also shows that despite retiring in 2012 with an expected gratuity amounting to N2.5 million, Danladi Gwamna only received N85,000 initially, with officials later informing him of an investment scheme entitling him to a monthly benefit.

Fourteen years later, the outstanding balance of remuneration and the earmarked funds for his prospective investment remain unpaid to him. Speaking with The ICIR, Gwamna said his monthly pension initially stood at N23,000, only to be subsequently reduced to N14,500. He expressed shock over the rationale behind the reduction.

Due to the government’s failure to dispense pensions and gratuities, many retirees live in acute suffering, hopelessness, and fail to save their families from preventable deaths and related crises when they could do so if money were available.




     

     

    Despite an order by the state government in 2022, affirming the release of one billion naira for disbursement to retirees in the state, Zitta and some of his members said they were to get it.

    Zitta recounted how his members had taken to the streets to protest seven times, demanding their entitlements without receiving them.

    He, however, noted that the former Director-General of the Niger State Pension Board, Nasiru Saidu Namaska, gave them assurances of finalised arrangements for the payment.

    Regrettably, Zitta said the assurance had yet to be fulfilled.

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