By Gid Ahanonu
Permanent Secretaries who retired from the services of the Imo State Government have reminded government that they ought to pay interest on delayed pensions.
Briefing newsmen recently in Owerri as the Body of Retired Permanent Secretaries, the retired top civil servants expressed displeasure that 12 of them died between Nov. 2011 and Oct. 2016 without receiving their entitlements.
Chairman of the body, Chief Hyacint Onyekwere, who spoke on behalf of the group, frowned at the state government’s pronouncement that it had defrayed the arrears of pensions with the sum of N12.2 billion.
He said that government only paid 70% of one month out of 16-70 months owed different categories of pensioners.
He said that it amounted to 50% when it is considered that the pension of a public servant is calculated on 80% of last pay, adding that a majority of pensioners were omitted in the said payment.
Chief Onyekwere pointed out that non-payment of pensions is a violation of section 210 (1-4) of the 1999 constitution and that owing pensioners amounts to forced loan on the part of government which must be paid with interest.
He listed the consequences of delayed pensions to include the reduction of money in the economy which escalates poverty and unemployment, adding that children have dropped out of school and pensioners cannot renew their vehicle licenses or meet other social obligations.
The permanent secretaries criticized the administration of pensions by contractors and traditional rulers who are ill-equipped to do it, instead of sub-treasuries charged with the function.
According to them, pension is a charge on the consolidated revenue fund and not subject to the budgets; hence, the inability to pay is a sure sign of bankruptcy.
The body advised the government to stop embarking on unviable projects that do not add to the welfare of the people while people are starving to death.
The demolition of buildings and destruction of people’s means of livelihood, they said, had reduced the tax base of the state and brought untold hardship to the people of Imo State.
They also flayed the destruction of legacies by the present administration and wondered whether the administration is “on a mission to devastate Imo state as well as render it prostate and desolate”.
The top pensioners called on the legislature and the Judiciary to arise and live up to their constitutional responsibilities, while advising the governor to “comply with the rule of law and pay us promptly”.