Ebonyi retirees lament extortion by state audit officials

Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi
Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi

Some retirees in Ebonyi State have accused some unnamed staff of the state audit department of reportedly extorting money from them before approving their gratuities.

They also alleged that the audit staff in Abakaliki deliberately withhold their files if they (retirees) failed to comply with their monetary demands.

The state Auditor General, Innocent Nweda, in his reaction vowed to dismiss those perpetrating the alleged acts.

Governor David Umahi had recently released N1.5 billion for payment of gratuity and arrears of pensions of retired workers in the state and ordered the immediate payment upon completion of necessary paperwork.

But many of the retirees told PREMIUM TIMES that they have found it hard to access their payments as the officials have subjected them to difficulties ranging from withholding of files, extortion, to delay in the approved payments.

Speaking in Abakaliki on Tuesday, one of the retirees, Benedict Anyigor, alleged that his file has been withheld by some officials of the state, whom he alleged had been extorting him.

“I was supposed to be paid N4.787.081. Out of this amount, the government has paid me N800, 000 but some of the officials in the state audit department, who have been processing my file for payment said I should settle them with N200, 000 out of this amount for immediate payment or my file will not be sent to the Head of Service for the payment,” he said.

“I have already given them N50, 000 out of the N200, 000. I told them that I will pay the remaining N150, 000 after receiving full payment of the gratuity from the government which they have started paying”, he added.

Another, who pleaded anonymity to avoid victimisation alleged that he was asked to pay N700,000 ”as settlement” fee to enable his file to be processed and pushed out for immediate payment.

He said that he was dying of hunger as a result of delay in the payment.

However, the auditor general, when contacted said he has launched an investigation into the matter.

He said any staff discovered to have indulged in the act will be punished in accordance with the provisions of civil service rules.

“Here, we don’t demand money before retirees or anybody’s file is processed. If anybody is demanding money from retirees or anybody to treat the person’s case, I will like to know the person and he will be sanctioned in accordance with the provisions of civil service rules and regulations.

‘We will treat the person like a criminal. In 2012, we sacked some principal officers because they did what was not expected of them as civil servants.

“So, in this case, I will find out and ensure that such a person or persons are dealt with accordingly and are made to leave the civil service. He will be treated like an armed robber.

“These people should know that they are civil servants and they will leave the civil service and become retirees”, he said.

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