The governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state, Mr Godwin Obaseki has said mischief makers and a vocal minority are twisting facts about pensions issues in the state to score cheap political points.
Obaseki, who spoke in an interview in Benin City described controversies over the state’s pensions as unfortunate and an “issue of a very vocal minority” noting that the Adams Oshiomole’s government inherited unpaid pensions liabilities left by the previous People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government covering 1998 to 2009.
He said “From 1998 to 2009, when we came in, they didn’t pay pension or gratuity to anybody. So the pile they left, the pile of pension arrears was so huge. Since we came in, we’ve continued to defray (the outstanding pensions), to pay down year on year. We had to go back to begin to clear up the mess that had been accumulated.”
Obaseki, who was the Chairman of the State’s Economic Management Team disclosed that “As at date, we’ve cleared that mess up to 2012/2013. So the people who are complaining are those of 2014 and 2015. But everybody else that we’ve cleared, they are currently enjoying their pension benefits. And you know why it’s a big problem? The last administration, the Igbenedion administration, retired summarily, almost 7,000 civil servants because they thought it was a smart way of saving money.
“They thought it was a way of moving more money from recurrent expenditure into capital which you know what they did with the capital. So we’ve cleared up that mess and we have made up two years outstanding. And everyone knows the state of the country so it’s not fair to say when you have a pool of 20,000 or 15,000 pensioners, 2000 haven’t received their pensions and people make it sound as if Edo state had not paid its pensions.
“But then, the greatest thing is that we’ve also taken steps to make sure that the pension crisis is resolved once and for all, because we’ve now moved from a non-contributory pension scheme to a contributory pension scheme. So every month when you earn a salary, a portion is taken out, and invested for your pension so that in another five 5-10 years from now, PFAs will just pay them upon retirement. So we’ve dealt with the core problem and we’re just mopping up the arrears that existed.
“The other issue is that of local governments, which is not our direct responsibility. But we’re going to have to work with them to become a lot more responsible in terms of their financing. You cannot hire people you cannot pay. So they’ve got to think about how to increase their revenues and how to reduce their cost of operations,” the APC governorship candidate explained.