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Bauchi Pensioners Agonise Over Unpaid Pension, Regret Why They Ever Served The State

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Contrary to claims by the Bauchi State Government of paying pensioners, WikkiTimes has uncovered how retired civil servants in the state have been denied payments and subjected to untold hardship. 

Many of the senior citizens who had served the state said they now regret wasting their productive years working for the state.  WikkiTimes found that many of them have not been getting their pension as the government is yet to clear backlogs amounting to about N21 billion.

Failure by the state government to give them their entitlements, frustration from government officials and endless waiting time to process their payments have forced many of them into poverty.

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A 77 year old Abubakar Saidu who worked at the mechanical unit of the state’s ministry of is not wishing his offspring to end up being a pensioner in any tiers of government. He was grossly unhappy with himself when he realised that his monthly pay after retirement was N2,000 – about 15 years ago. 

The septuagenarian now receives N12,000 as his pension which he said was not stable despite his deteriorating state of health. “I have had a partial stroke without anyone to take care of me,” he said as he sobered. He was assisted by a young man who took him to the State Pension Board located at the State Secretariat to complain about his unpaid August and September 2021 pension when he got an alert for October. 

He spoke with the reporter as tears rolled down his eyes. Officers at the State Pension Board had asked him to resort to checking his account balance. He left the premises certainly unhappy and looking forlorn. 

Saidu is one of the thousands of senior citizens who are facing hardships in getting their due payments. 

“It is now that I understand why some workers in the service shortchange the government to amass illegal wealth,” Saidu said. “The government too, is not sincere.”

During a media parley to mark his 100 days in office, Governor Bala Mohammed said his administration would keep its promise in paying pension and gratuity. The governor pointed out then that years of unsettled debt worried him and expressed commitment to settling such debts.

The governor had said a joint account would be opened by state and local governments in order to save N200 million each month for the payment of pension and gratuity. But checks by WikkiTimes show that pension and gratuity have continued to accumulate as the senior citizens agonised over the development. 

As of December 2018, Bauchi State owed N16.937 Billion pensions and gratuities. In 2019, the state incurred an additional N3.998 billion, while it settled N 1.069 billion. By the end of 2019, the debt rose to N19.86 billion. 

Meanwhile, the state incurred a fresh N1.79 billion while it paid about N1 billion. By November 2020, the state pension and gratuity debt stood at N21.6 billion, 7.97 percent increase over the previous year, according to a document obtained and analysed by WikkiTimes from the director, Debt Management Agency, Abdullahi Jibril Sabo. 

Governor Bala Mohammed is allegedly having upheaval in clearing the pension and gratuity debt, in addition to payroll fraud occasioned by multiple earnings by individuals from the government and other sharp practises. 

Mohammed said that the pension and gratuity arrears he inherited was over N28 billion and he could not do miracles to clear it.

“So far, we have paid so much and by the time we get more excess definitely, we will pay our workers who have exited,” the governor said while addressing Christian groups last December. 

Pensioners withdraw children from private schools 

Suleiman Umar, who retired in June 2020 under the state government, has reasons to withdraw his children from private schools. 

“After my retirement in June 2020, I was not paid until one year after,” he said.. I received it for June and July and after that I have not been paid anything else. I have met the officials at the Treasury and State Pension Board. They referred me to a consultant that is handling the payment. How do I locate him, where do I go to? I don’t know. The consultant is the one determining who gets paid or not,” he said. 

“My prayer now is that, may our children live to benefit what we have laboured for. The money seems not to be forthcoming. They told me that the gratuity payment is still in October 2012. You can imagine when someone like us be paid. If the money had been coming as we planned, we could have made a little investment to keep ourselves busy, instead of nursing high blood pressure and diabetes.”

When WikkiTimes inquired from the Office of the State Accountant General, the reporter was directed to meet the Deputy Accountant General (Inspectorate) while the AG was away in Abuja for a week-long meeting. DAP Inspectorate said that the Treasury is no longer handling payment of salaries, pension and gratuity, pointing out that the local and state pension boards are saddled with the responsibility. 

Meanwhile, the leadership of the Nigerian Association of Pensioners in Bauchi State has declined to comment on the issue. When the reporter met its chairman, Mr Ibrahim Aliyu last October at the union’s office, he directed him to meet the secretary that the secretary would brief him later. Aliyu had since deferred several scheduled interviews. 

He was reminded earlier this month for his comment but said he would call back after leaving the Office of the Head of Service, but he never did.  The reporter contacted him again the following day and he referred the reporter to the secretary again but the secretary insisted that the reporter should speak with the chairman. 

This story was published with support from Civic Media Lab. 

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