We have read online reports alleging that pensioners of Benue State have written a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against the Benue State Government on what they call diversion of arrears of their entitlements which according to the reports, were included in the bailout funds but allegedly diverted.
Such reports are as false as the claims of the inclusion of pension arrears in the bailout funds.
When the Ortom administration met a deficit treasury on assumption of office, it also met debts of over N100 billion left behind by the previous administration. The present administration also met unpaid wages and pensions which amounted to N69 billion.
A window of opportunity was opened by the Federal Government to bailout states in a similar financial situation as Benue. The Ortom administration, in its efforts to bring succour to workers and retirees of the state, applied for the bailout funds with a request of N69 billion sent to the Central Bank.
The apex bank released only N28 billion of the requested funds to Benue State as a loan only for the payment of salaries. The remaining N41 billion from the N69 which would have gone for pensions and gratuity owed retirees was not approved by the Federal Government and was therefore not part of the N28 billion loan the State Government received and cleared the backlog of salaries at the state and local government levels. No bailout money meant for pensions was diverted because none was appropriated for that purpose in the bailout funds.
When Benue pensioners heard about the bailout money and visited Governor Ortom some months ago, after the Governor explained to them that the bailout funds which came to the state did not include pensions but that his administration was still in talks with the Federal Government to find a way of clearing the backlog of pensions, they saw reason with him and returned home.
Governor Samuel Ortom is a true pensioners’ Governor. This is evident in the fact that as soon as he assumed office, he began to pay pensioners every month until the economy took a very bad dip early this year making the regular payment of pensioners difficult after they were paid in the month of March. The Governor was worried that senior citizens of the state could no longer get paid to enable them take care of themselves.
Not weighed down by the reality of the moment, the State Executive Council made a resolution to access the budget support fund of N1.3 billion from the Federal Government. Governor Ortom directed that N200 million be released for the payment of pensions at the local government level and another N200 million for the payment of pensions at the state level. The directive has been complied with and pensioners of the state and the 23 local government areas can confirm this.
It is pertinent to state again that Governor Samuel Ortom is fully aware of the sacrifices made by retirees of the state and is keen about their welfare. He believes that the pensioners deserve to enjoy their retirement and his administration would continue to explore sources of funds to be able to clear the pensions owed the retirees.
The Governor appreciates the patience of the senior citizens even as his administration was not responsible for the many months they were not paid before the coming of the present administration.
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor