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Rekindling Nasarawa senior citizens’ hope through regular gratuity, pension payment

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Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State

By Oboh Linus, Lafia

Every retiree looks forward to receiving his or her retirement benefit as and when due in a new phase of life.

Sadly, some state governors perceive retirement benefit as more or less an unwarranted distraction, hence depriving the senior citizens the right to their lawful entitlements after retirement.

Where such payments are made as irregular as they may be, they are considered as part of landmark achievements of the governor.

In Nasarawa State, before the coming on board of Gov. Abdullahi Sule in 2019, retirees went through tough times including facing an uncertain future, as desired attention was not given to them by the previous administrations.

According to available records, in 2019 Sule inherited N42 billion of benefit arrears to retirees.

The pensioners said they were being paid 50 per cent of their monthly pension by the previous administrations thereby plunging them into untold hardship.

To correct the anomaly, the pensioner said Sule upon assumption of office in 2019 made a solemn promise during his first term inauguration to review the payment of pension and gratuity within 100 days in office.

However, while speaking recently in Akwanga at an event organised by Mada Development Association Sule said his administration had cleared the gratuity to retired state civil servants, which had not been paid in the last 26 years.

The governor explained that, his administration had deployed the funds gotten from the World Bank under the state’s Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme, to pay the gratuity and pension of retirees.

“In my very first month, because of my inaugural speech, we started to look at how to block the leakages.

“This is to ensure that we will generate enough funds to pay them 100 per cent. I am happy, we have now gone over three years there has never been any month we paid in percentage,” he said.

Also in February 2024 during assessment visit to the Pension Bureau said Sule approved the disbursement of N1 billion to clear the outstanding gratuity over 1000 retiree from both local and state government from 1999 to 2010.

According to Sule, the gesture is meant to bring succour to the retirees who are presently experiencing economic hardship to enable them to start something in order to better their lives.

“People are facing a lot of challenges today due to the economic hardship.

“That is the reason why we believe if we pay them their money, some of them are getting one million, some two million and even three million, the money will go a long way in reducing the hardship“, he said.

Alhaji Suleiman Nagogo, Director – General, Nasarawa State Pension Bureau, said Sule’s administration had been impressive in the face of limited resources.

Nagogo said on assumption to office, Sule began the review of the percentage payment of gratuity in the state and streamlined retirees’ entitlements to quarterly basis and directed the commencement of full payment of pension immediately.

Nagogo said before now there has been series of garnishee orders against the state by aggrieved pensioners, however, noting that the present administration had taken bold step and settled their grievances through out of court settlement.

“The issue here is that the Pension Bureau makes sure that once you are paid this quarter the next quarter it will be a different batch of gratuity beneficiaries that will be entertained.

“This, we have maintained as our approach so that as many as possible could enjoy part of their gratuity on a continuous basis in this manner and until some of them are able to be cleared off,” he said.

The Director-General commended Sule for rekindling the hope of senior citizens in Nasarawa state by approving the payment of N5000 across board as palliatives to pensioners to cushion the effect of present economic hardship.

“Since his assumption to office in 2019 being his first term, Gov. Sule made it crystal clear that he is going to look into the issue of outstanding gratuity and pension of retirees in the state,” he said.

Nagogo said Nasarawa state had since maintained 100 per cent payment of pension since 2019 till date.

He applauded President Bola Tinubu for issuing a clear directive to the state governors to ensure prompt payment of retirees entitlements.

Nagogo said the Bureau had blocked leakages through thorough verification of the beneficiaries before payments were being made since he assumed office.

“Recall that when I assumed office, I vowed to eradicate issue of fake people who enjoy gratuity or people who are made to pay inducement to my workers before they collect their pay.

“If anytime, any day, anybody brings issue of fake pensioner or gratuity beneficiary and is verified to be fake I vow to take action against not only the fake pensioner or gratuity beneficiary but my employees who are engaged in that very malpractice,” he warned.

Mr Hudu Baba – Abdullahi, Chairman Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Nasarawa State Chapter, said senior citizens in the state have never had it this good in the history of pension payment.

According to him, the issue of pension and gratuity payment in Nasarawa state before Sule assumed office was a terrible mess, noting that his administration had since brought hope to the Pensioners.

“Gov. Sule met a mess, which include payment of pension in percentages and lack of payment of gratuity as and when due but as I talk to you now the payment of pension in percentages has stopped and all the arrears have been paid.

“So many of us have recovered from our health challenges we were facing due to lack of money to seek proper medical care before now,” he said.

He commended Sule for releasing N1 billion to clear the outstanding gratuity of the, saying that it was unprecedented in the history of Nasarawa state.

Alhaji Danjuma Ayitogo, a retired Permanent Secretary and NUP chairman, Keana Local Government Area, said the pensioners in the local government were receiving their pension as and when due.

“Gov. Sule being a Pensioner, knows the pain and difficulties pensioners go through, so the best he can do for us is to give us our entitlement so that every pensioner can enjoy himself, and that’s what he is doing.

Mrs Lydia Irekpita, a retiree and the state NUP Women Desk Leader, said that Sule had changed the narrative of pension payment in the state.

“Those of us who survived the terrible days of non-payment of pension by the previous administrations are by the grace of God.

“So many of our colleagues died simply because there was no money to seek better medical care,” she said.

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