Abia State Government has said that several years of rotten Civil Service System in the state was responsible for the huge pension arrears and outrageous wage bill currently weighing the state down.
The state’sh Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Obinna Oriaku disclosed this during an interview with journalists at the government secretariat in Umuahia.
Oriaku noted that several years of ignoring and overlooking the improper and undeserving promotions in the Civil Service led to excessive hike in salaries, which its implications are the current problem of skyrocketed pensions.
The Commissioner, who was reacting to question about the protest staged by some pensioners during the May Day celebration in Umuahia, described the pension problem in Abia as fundamental which must be addressed for the state to move forward.
Speaking further he said: “It’s a fundamental problem that has nothing to do with Ikpeazu. It’s a problem that we’ve been able to diagnose and identify where it’s coming from.
“I’m very careful when I talk about pensioners because some of us are well groomed in African culture because you’re talking about old people who are our mothers and fathers. But as a government, we take responsibility of whatever goes on as it affects our standings with pensioners.”
He continued: “At the inception of this administration, the Federal Government asked the entire states to sum up their outstanding liabilities by way of pensions, gratuities and salaries.
“We did that and the total outstanding of Abia State came about N39billion. These include gratuity of over N20billion and the other outstanding pensions and small salaries. This happened five months into Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration.
“While State like Imo was getting N30billion, others
He reiterated that the current problem in payment of pension in Abia was self-inflicted, saying: “How can a state as poor as Abia have a pension liability of N450million per month and N380million for local governments? What this means is that you are using almost N1billion to service pension on monthly basis.
“Pension is a major issue in Abia and you can’t address it without addressing the fundamentals. And what are the fundamentals? The truth is that those figures were built on false premise.
“Naturally pension shouldn’t be an issue. It should be a small fraction of your salary while you’re in active service, but because of the rot, because of the deliberate decisions of these same pensioners, which they never expected will come later to hurt them.
“These people worked in civil service, some of them were offshoots of Owerri (Old Imo State where Abia was carved from in 1991). When we arrived here, they threw away everything that civil service is known for to the winds.
“In Abia, we have pensioners who are retiring as bosses. Virtually everybody is retiring at level 16 and everyone wants to be permanent secretaries which is a major issue because as permanent secretary, you earn what you were earning in service as pension.
“Today, permanent Secretaries that retired in Abia earn N470, 000 which is huge. The same permanent secretary that retired in Enugu State is earning N290, 000 as pension. Why wouldn’t our pension be high with this kind of issue?
“Promotion is not all comers’ affair.