The Benue state government has paid four months of pension arrears to its retirees and three months to those of the local governments since Governor Hyacinth Alia took office.
This was disclosed by the State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Michael Vember, in an interview. He said the payments covered May to August 2023 for state pensioners and June to August 2023 for local government pensioners.
He added that the government had inherited about 77 months of unpaid pensions for local government retirees and 43 months for state retirees from previous administrations. He said the government had decided to start afresh and pay all pensions regularly, while assuring that the outstanding arrears would be cleared when funds are available.
He expressed concern over the plight of pensioners in the country, especially after the removal of petrol subsidy by President Bola Tinubu’s administration. He said some pensioners receive as low as N4,000 monthly as pension, which is barely enough to survive in the current economic situation.
He said: “Initially, when Governor Hyacinth Alia took over he focused on the payment of state pensioners, excluding local government pensioners. But when we drew his attention to it, he started paying local governments retirees as well.
“So far he has paid up to August 2023. But the fact is that he has decided to create arrears in between because, like local government pensioners their payment stopped at May 2018. So he jumped and started paying from June 2023. Thereby leaving behind a backlog of arrears from May 2018 to May 2023.
“He did the same thing with state pensioners. The state had arrears from May 2020 and he jumped to May 2023 and started paying from that point.
“So far, the governor has paid state pensioners four months while local government pensioners have received three months. He is paying across board.
“He also promised to pay the arrears but he has not made efforts to pay. He ordered that the arrears be calculated and kept for him pending when funds will be available for him to pay. Though he has not told us when he would pay.”
On how Benue pensioners are coping with the economic situation in the country, Vember said: “What we are going through is actually very disheartening. Since the removal of petrol subsidy retirees have been left in the worst position or condition anybody can think of.
“This is so because the civil service minimum wage is N30,000 but the minimum wage of a pensioners in Benue state is about N4,000. You can see the disparity. You are taking N20,000 or N30,000 and you cannot cope with the economic realities, what then is the hope of the retiree who is paid N4,000. You can see our pathetic situation.
“So the pensioners are the worst hit by the present economic downturn in the country. That is our situation and we cannot be left in this condition, we gave our best to our country and I think that we also deserve the best in return.