DEFRAYING OF ARREARS OF PENSIONS OF RETIRED PUBLIC SERVANTS IN ABIA STATE BY GOVERNOR ALEX OTTI: PROMISE MADE, PROMISE KEPT.

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Ordinarily, paying people what is due them in form of salaries , gratuities , pensions among other entitlements should not be celebrated or given media hype. It is compared to providing breakfast for one’s children as a father, which is not expected to be announced on radio. However, owing to the fact that pension , which is one of the basic obligations of government was neglected for years in Abia State by past administrations, payment of pension arrears by the present Dr. Alex Otti led administration is news worthy and of course has made headline news , especially, considering the implications of the payment to our retirees and the fact that it is unprecedented.

It is obvious that the cries of pensioners under the Abia State Government, have been a recurring issue to the extent that many retirees are facing unparalleled challenges in accessing their pensions while those who are about to exit the service have continued to approach it with fears of what would become of them when they eventually retire.

Prior to the emergence of Dr. Alex Otti OFR, as the Governor of Abia State, the pensioners in Abia state have faced delays and most times outright non-payment of their pensions and sometimes, whenever the pensions are paid; whether once in 3 or 4 months or after a protest, it would be half payment. The non payment of pensions have lingered tp the level that some pensioners have even lost count of the actual amount owed them by the government.

This ugly situation has led to many protests, demonstrations, and appeals to the government for intervention , all to no avail. More worrisome is that , non payment of pensions have led to death of some pensioners , who were not able to pay their medical bills. Some equally died as a result of hunger and starvation while others have become chronic debtors; who appear miserable and helpless to their creditors. These situations continued unabated despite several campaign promises by past governments to address the plight of pensioners. It is regrettable that the plight of these great men and women who toiled for the state at the peak of their productive years were left unattended to.

However, the coming on board of the people oriented, visionary and focused Governor of Abia State, His Excellency, Dr. Alex Otti, OFR brought a ray of light and revived the hope of pensioners in Abia state.

It could be recalled that while being inaugurated as the Governor of Abia State , Dr. Alex Otti among other things promised to defray all the arrears of pensions that were accumulated by past administrations in the state by the end of December, 2023. Unfortunately, issues of reconciliations and verifications
affected the initial plan to offset the pension arrears accumulated since 2014 by the end of 2023, So, the government then set the end of the first quarter of 2024 as the new deadline for defraying of the arrears of pensions ; a development that was duly communicated to the people in the New Year message of Governor Otti, where he pleaded for the kind understanding of our pensioners.

Consequently, on Thursday 28 March, Governor Alex Otti OFR, fulfilled his promise to our retirees as credit alerts started raining in the bank accounts and mobile phones of our pensioners. The payment of these pensions brought immediate relief to the pensioners and they broke into joy having been resuscitated.

Indeed, payment of these accumulated pensions is unprecedented in the history of Abia State. The implication is that, Governor Otti has just created a new lease of life for our pensioners and written his name in the hearts of these retired public servants. It is really a promise made and promise kept by Governor Alex Otti to our
senior citizens. Of course, it is a reward from Governor Otti to the pensioners , who trooped out en masse to vote for Dr. Otti and entrenched good governance in the State.

In his Easter goodwill message, Governor Otti noted that,
“Just three days ago, we fulfilled a very important promise made to our senior citizens at various campaign stops and repeated with firm assurance in the early days of this administration.”

He further said , “I am glad that we have fulfilled that solemn promise; making it possible for thousands of pensioners and their families to celebrate this year’s Easter in joy, satisfied that what they worked for, their genuine entitlements, which had been delayed for years through no fault of theirs, has finally been offset.”

At this juncture, the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) in Abia state deserves commendation for their faith in the government of Dr. Alex Otti . Also, the members of the finance team of the government should be appreciated for painstakingly carrying out the directives the Governor and hashing out the payment details as well as diligently doing all the hard work that got the Governor Alex Otti led administration this satisfactory result.

It is gladdened to note that Dr. Alex Otti has vowed that , never again would our senior citizens be subjected to the agony of unpaid entitlements. Infact, Governor Otti has since directed that full pensions must be paid on or before the 28th of every month to our pensioners. They would henceforth be receiving alerts of their pensions the same day the civil servants in the state get their salaries. Governor Otti has further instructed that as a rule, political office holders will only be paid after the payments of our senior citizens and civil servants have been paid.

It is therefore expected of the pensioners to sustain their support to the leadership of Governor Alex Otti, who has redeemed his promise to them . For those pensioners who might have been omitted in the payments , it is instructive they approach the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners and other relevant offices of government to register their complaints. More particularly , the government has set up a Hell Desk in the Ministry of Finance to address the issue. This is because the people of the State have the assurances of Governor Alex Otti’s commitment to their welfare. And this is also in line with his policy thrust of creating wealth and lifting the people out of poverty.

Truly, Governor Alex Otti has proven that his government is very much interested in the welfare of the people. And the welfare of the people is the principal motivation for all his programmes and projects in the State. Little wonder he has already affected lives of many people positively through his various strides in road infrastructure, renovations and remodelling of schools, retrofitting of general hospitals, installation of street lights , super waste management, security among many others. He is indeed, living up to his election campaign mantra that Abians should weep no more for help is here!!!

Divine Nwankwo
Asst. Head, Information and Press
Govt. House , Umuahia.