Despite billions in revenue, Abia owes pensioners over 40 months, 20 years gratuities

THE Abia State Government owes more than 40 months in pensions and over 20 years in gratuities to all categories of retirees in the state, a report by The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR) has shown.

Published on Saturday, March 11, the report highlighted the various struggles and pains some of the hapless retirees have continued to go through due to the refusal of successive governments to pay monies due to them.

One of the retirees, Dickson Onyemeta, narrated to The ICIR how his plan to set up a commercial poultry farm had failed because the state government refused to pay his gratuity when he retired in 2006.

Dickson Onyemeta/PC: ICIR’s Vincent Ufuoma

Onyemeta had hoped to use the farm proceeds to cater for himself and his family. The 70-year-old man said feeding and catering for his family had become a nightmare he had never anticipated when he left the service of the state.


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“We are suffering!” exclaimed Onyemeta. He added, “Retirees are suffering, Abia State government is not treating us well.”

Similarly, Otegbuna Ocha Chinemere, a retired primary school teacher, told The ICIR that life has not been kind to her since she left the state’s employment in 2013.

The 62-year-old stroke patient complained that her monthly pension, which amounts to N75,000 monthly, only comes once in five months.

Otegbuna Ocha Chinemere/PC: ICIR’s Vincent Ufuoma

Apart from the stress she had to endure doing what she referred to as fruitless verification exercises, Chinemere lamented that earlier last year, the government started paying pensioners in the state half payment.

The mother of three is concerned she is overburdening her 25-year-old son with so much financial stress.

Several other retirees interviewed shared testimonies of lack, pain, poverty and rejection they have been subjected to because of the non-payment of their entitlements.

Various sources interviewed, including the leader of one of the pension unions in the state, confirmed that the government has not paid gratuity since 2022.

This is despite several billions of naira received and generated by various successive governments since the country returned to democracy more than 22 years ago.

For instance, in the last seven years, the current Okezie Ikpeazu-led state government has received more than N321 billion in Federal Allocation (FAAC).

Info-graph showing amount of revenues generated and received by Abia State since 2015/PC: ICIR’s Data Hub

The ICIR data hub also showed that more than N107 billion has been generated in internal revenues by the state in the same period. Like most states in the country, Abia has enjoyed a bailout from the Federal Government, including N14.2 billion in intervention funds by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016.

Created in 1996, the state is blighted by allegations of embezzlement and corruption led by various successive governments of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).






     

     

    Since the restoration of democracy in 1999, analysts believe that Abia State is one of the poorly run states in the Southern part of the country.

    The state’s debt profile has more than doubled from N33.53 billion in 2015 to N70.57 billion by March 31, 2021, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), despite its comparatively high monthly earnings from oil proceeds.

    The ICIR made several unsuccessful attempts to get reactions from the state government.

    The State’s Commissioner for Information, Eze Chikamnayo, requested that questions be sent to him via SMS but has not provided answers weeks since inquiries were officially sent to him.

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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