By Nick Chibunna
The Chief Ihedioha-led administration in Imo State has said that its “Rebuild Imo Project” is desirous to clear all arrears of pensions and gratuities, so as to face the present infrastructural decay and save money for the overall development of the state.
This is even as pensioners in Imo State, under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), have passionately appealed to the government to commence payment of their entitlements alongside the present verification exercise in order to alleviate their present sufferings that have led to preventable deaths.
Addressing journalists on behalf of the state governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, at the Old Banquet Hall, Government House Owerri where the exercise was going on, the Special Adviser to the Imo State governor on strategies and planning, Hon. C. Oparaeke, said that government was concerned on the plight of Imo pensioners and wished the exercise could be completed in earnest, so that payment could commence immediately.
He said that the essence of the verification exercise was to capture the biometric data of all Imo pensioners in order to ascertain the exact number and the infiltration of ghost pensioners so that necessary action could be taken.
According to him, more than 250 Imo graduates have been trained for the exercise, and they have been working round the clock to meet the target.
Also addressing the media practitioners, chairman of the Technical Committee on the Verification, Mr. Paschal Madu, said that his committee was not unmindful of the pathetic situation in which Imo pensioners find themselves due to non-payment of pensions and gratuities, and promised that his committee would work assiduously to proffer solution to the problems.
He said that Imo journalists have been invited to the venue of the verification exercise so that they could see things for themselves.
He said that just under two days, over 13,000 files out of estimated 30,000 have been treated, adding that is the present pace continued, the exercise might be completed before the end of August and payment affected.
In his own address, the state chairman of the NUP, Chief Josiah Ugochukwu, said that Imo pensioners were already running out of patience due to non-payment of their pensions and gratuities, hence they see the verification committee as delay tactics. He was, however, quick to add that the pensioners have implicit confidence in Gov. Ihedioha as he has always maintained that his word is his bond.
He said that in less than two years, Imo pensioners have lost three substantive state chairmen due to excruciating hardship and lack of funds to receive medical attention.
He pleaded with the committee to expedite action on the exercise or in alternative pay pensions and gratuities simultaneously with the verification and the capture of biometric data.
Other people who spoke at the press briefing included the Imo State Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Austin Chilakpu, a member of the verification committee and the Imo State secretary of the NUP, Evang. L. Ashiegbu and Mrs. Adaora, from among the consultants handling the verification.