The pensioners say Lagos State owes them up to ten years pension arrears.
The Lagos State council of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Wednesday, issued a four week ultimatum to the state government to clear all the outstanding arrears of its members.
At rallies in Yaba and Ikeja, attended by dozens of the members, the union stated that the Lagos State Government has not paid some of the pensioners up to ten years pension arrears.
“Lagos State is respected and known to be the premier state in the country, but it is lagging behind in terms of payment of harmonization of pension to pensioners,” said Nojeemdeen Adebayo, Chairman of the union’s Lagos State chapter.
“The 180 per cent awarded before (Governor) Tinubu came to government, some pensioners are yet to be paid,” Mr. Adebayo added.
The pensioners and the state government have a history of disagreements in pension emoluments, according to Mr. Adebayo.
After a 142 per cent increase in pension entitlements during Mr. Tinubu’s government, and which the state refused to pay; the pensioners headed to court.
In 2006, the court ruled in their favour.
“By the time Tinubu started paying, he was paying the civil service branch, leaving the local governments, the primary school teachers, and some parastatals. He didn’t pay them,” Mr. Adebayo said.
“When (Governor) Fashola came, he paid those ones, remaining three years arrears for the whole pensioners in Lagos State,” he added.
The pensioners say that a six per cent pension harmonization in 2003 has not been implemented by the Lagos State government.
A second, 15 per cent, harmonization in 2007 has also not been implemented by the state “not to talk of payment.”
“What are we in life for? Many pensioners are dying, some are bedridden, many are living below poverty level,” Mr. Adebayo said.
“It is only Lagos State that is yet to pay all these harmonization. They keep saying ‘we are at it.’ All the time ‘we are at it.’ Our plan for May 10 is in the cooler,” Mr. Adebayo added.
A planned mass protest and industrial action by the Nigeria Labour Congress and civil society groups on Wednesday, in solidarity with the pensioners, was shelved at the last minute after the federal government conceded to pay the outstanding areas.
But civil society groups insist that defaulting states must toe the line of the federal government.
“For us, it’s not just about the federal pensions, because the impression people keep having is that it’s only the federal that owe people pension. There are states that are owing pension to workers,” said Abiodun Aremu, Secretary of the Joint Action Front, who organized the rallies.
“In the particular case of Lagos, for pensioners that have been mobilized here, that suspension (of industrial action) could not have solved their problem,” Mr. Aremu said.
“What we have simply done today is to make that clear statement that the pensioners in Lagos that are being owed their arrears of salaries is not new, because it is consistent with the anti-poor policies of the Lagos State government,” Mr. Aremu added.
‘We are not owing’
In a swift reaction to the pensioners’ claims, the Lagos State Government said that it is not owing ten years arrears.
The state, however, admitted that there are three years outstanding arrears and it is “doing its best” to offset the bills.
“We have paid all our pensioners up till date. Anybody that has any evidence contrary to that, come forward with it,” Lateef Ibirogba, the state’s Information Commissioner, said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
“I’m happy that you have raised the issue of the controversial (142) percentage. As at today, we have reduced that, after the court judgment, to three years,” Mr. Ibirogba said.
The commissioner said that there are a lot of things in the state “begging for attention.”
“All of us are healthy enough to think of where is my allowance because we have a government that takes good care of a lot of things. We will continue to provide social amenities that will allow Lagosians to keep living well in Lagos,” said Mr. Ibirogba.
“So it is in that context that we continue to appropriate the money available to us for every segment. We are doing for pensioners, we are doing for people that are still in active service, we are doing it for Lagosians who don’t even have the opportunity of serving Lagos and who Lagos State must continue to serve.”
Mr. Ibirogba appealed to the pensioners to be patient with the government.
“The government is only appropriating whatever resources it has to make sure that no segment is left uncared for.
“We have not said that we will not (pay). But in the same way we will continue to ensure that giving attention to them does not affect any other group adversely.
“We know it is their right and we will meet them on it. It is not for them to suffer or beg for it,” he added.
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