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Oil-rich Delta State owes 36 months pension arrears, number one in Nigeria

PENSIONERS in Delta State has not been paid their entitlements for three years, according to a recent survey published by BudgIT, a civil society organisation that analyses and simplifies Nigeria’s budget for easier understanding by ordinary citizens.

The survey, which tracked the level of indebtedness of all the states of the federation in terms of unpaid salary and pension arrears, showed that Delta State owes its pensioners a total of 36 months arrears.

This means that pensioners in Delta State have not been paid since Ifeanyi Okowa took over as the governor of the state in May 2015. Okowa is currently campaigning for a second term in office come 2019 general elections.

In 2017, Delta State collected the highest amount in federal allocations, less than only Akwa Ibom and Rivers states. But while Rivers owes no salary or pension arrears, Akwa Ibom pensioners are yet to be paid in the last 12 months.

On how it arrived at the figures, BudgIT told The ICIR that “the survey was conducted through a questionnaire by our Project tracking officers in all the 36 states. This questionnaire was given to workers across these categories to fill,” said BudgIT’s online assistant whose name was given simply as Olaniyi.

Attempts by The ICIR to hear from an official of the Delta State government was unsuccessful as phone numbers gotten from the state’s website were switched off and an e-mail sent to an address on the website, admin@deltastate.gov.ng, is yet to be replied as at the time of this report.

The story is also similar in Imo State, where the Rochas Okorocha-led administration owes pensioners 34 months arrears. This is in addition to the two-month salary arrears being owed school teachers as well as hospital workers in the state.

Like Delta, Imo State is also an oil-producing State, albeit on a smaller scale, yet pensioners continue to groan under the severe hardship brought upon them as a result of non-payment of their entitlements.

Okorocha, the Imo State governor, whose second tenure ends by May 2019, is aiming to go to the Senate, and has already ‘anointed’ his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to replace him as governor.

Another oil-producing state, Abia, ranks third on the list of state governments owing pension arrears. The state is yet to pay its pensioners for the past one and a half years (18 months).

Crisis-ridden Plateau State in the North Central region of Nigeria, comes fourth, with the state’s pensioners yet to be paid in the last 16 months. Osun State government owes 15 months pension arrears, Adamawa 13, while Akwa Ibom and Benue are tied in sixth position with 12 months arrears being owed pensioners in the states.

Bayelsa State, another oil-rich region, owes pensioners seven-month arrears.

Surprisingly, several states in Northern Nigeria, that are considered “poor” in terms of federal allocation and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), have a clean bill of health in terms of salary and pension payments.

Gombe, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, and Niger States, are owing zero amount in salaries and pension benefits. While states like Borno, Zamfara, Taraba, and Kogi are owing pensioners just two months arrears.

Also surprising is Ebonyi State which is considered the poorest state in South Eastern Nigeria, but owes no salary or pension arrears to its workers.

According to the same survey by BudgIT, Osun tops the list of states owing workers’ salary arrears with 15 months unpaid salaries. It is closely followed by Kogi, 13 months, and Benue, 11 months.

Abia State also owes its workers five months salary arrears, same as Ekiti state; Kwara and Zamfara States – 4 months each, Bayelsa – three and a half months, Imo and Adamawa – two months each, and Ondo and Oyo States – one month apiece.

In two tranches, the federal government had released funds to States from the Paris Club refund, with President Muhammadu Buhari urging governors to prioritise payment of workers’ salaries and retiree’s benefits. Also, some of the heavily indebted states had received bailout funds from the federal government to enable them to clear their debts, but in spite of all these measures, workers across several states remain unpaid.

The Ministry of Finance has said that only states which are able to show proof of non-indebtedness to workers and retirees will benefit from the final tranche of the Paris Club refund.

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