The Governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers state, Arc. Tonye Cole has decried the high-level of rot in pension administration under the Wike-led government.
In a statement issued on Tuesday in Port Harcourt and signed by the Spokesman, Tonye Cole – Innocent Barikor Gubernatorial Campaign Council, Barr. Sogbeye Eli, the candidate lamented that the systemic rot had led to the untimely death of many pensioners.
He promised to tackle those against efficient and corrupt-free pension administration in the state, if voted into office.
The statement read; “Rivers people will recall that in June this year, the Nyesom Wike Administration announced the approval of payment of gratuity, pension arrears and death benefits for all retired civil servants in the State.
“Wike promised to commence physical verification of the pensioners affected in batches. To be specific, the verification would begin with those who retired between 2012 and 2014, then 2015 and then 2016 to 2017. No mention was made of those who left the service in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
” In the same June, the State Government also announced the release of N1 billion monthly to clear her outstanding pension obligations. Like the secret budgets of the Rivers State Government under Wike, no evidence of this promised monthly releases is before us.
“Meanwhile, most of the pensioners who came out in June for the verification were in very bad health conditions. Some even came on wheelchairs. Sadly, regardless of their conditions, not up to 100 pensioners on the State pensions payroll of about 4,000 persons have been paid by the Wike Administration to date.
“We have evidence that even those paid so far are pensioners with outstanding balances of between N1m to N2.5m from payments made by the Amaechi Administration. For emphasis, no pensioner, except those who have contacts with Sim Fubara, the Accountant General of the State and governorship candidate of the PDP for 2023, has been paid up to N5m since June. In other words, what is going on at the State Secretariat is a charade and at best a conduit for releasing money to fund the PDP campaigns in Rivers State.
“Sadly, we also discovered in course of our interactions with Rivers pensioners that a good number of those already verified between June and this month have died without receiving a Kobo of their pension entitlements. We sympathize with the families they have left behind and pray for the repose of their dear souls.
“While we grieve over the passing of Rivers pensioners and senior citizens who laboured in the State’s vineyard but have left their loved ones behind to continue in severe distress and lamentions due to the negligence of an insensitive government, we owe them a duty and are committed to ensure the labours of our pensioners shall never be in vain.
“As the leading opposition political party, our sympathies are also with our elder statesmen and women that are alive. Our governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, believes that they do not deserve the disrespect and disregard they have been subjected to by the PDP Administration under a Governor who is more interested in flying all over Nigeria and Europe; holding nocturnal meetings to fight his political opponents and fund his supporters with Rivers money than address the challenges our pensioners and workers face in dire economic times.
“Luckily, our governorship candidate has the compassion, exposure and temperament to bring succor to our ailing pensioners. As a very successful private sector businessman, Tonye Cole is experienced in automated pensions administration and would never subject Rivers pensioners and workers to endless data verification as is the case in the last seven years. Our incoming Governor, by the grace of God and the overwhelming will of Rivers people expressed through their PVCs on March 11, 2023, is well versed in the motivation of the workforce to bring an end to the ongoing joke in the name of verification exercise.
” Tonye Cole is coming with bold innovation in pension administration and management of the State civil service from his private sector experience where the welfare of workers and the work environment is a critical factor in the value chain to drive efficiency and maximum productivity in the workplace. Rivers pensioners and workers have a new deal in a Governor who is compassionate and caring; built to listen and respond; and will respond to the challenges of the Rivers civil service if voted into office.
” Furthermore, as a Campaign Council, we condemn the insensitive abandonment of the work environment of the civil servants in the State Secretariat complex by Wike. No Government of Rivers State should neglect Rivers workers’ welfare to the point of sustainable zero attention to the lofty legacies of the pioneer Alfred Diete-Spiff Administration that we are all proud of. Under Tonye Cole, Rivers pensioners would no longer suffer and perish and our workers left languishing in offices without working lifts, electricity and clean toilets while their Governor is playing Father Christmas with the abundance of our commonwealth elsewhere.
“2023 is a date with Destiny for Rivers pensioners, their children, relatives, neighbours and workers in the State civil service heading to the exit door of their service years. Our people, including those 100,000 so-called Special Advisers, Assistants and Liaison officers who are deemed unfit for regular employment in over seven years by Wike but quickly appointed in the final months of his Administration as Election Taskforce, must remember the sufferings of their parents and relatives and grab the opportunity with both hands to vote for Tonye Cole as the next Governor of Rivers State. They should remember that like those appointed as liaison officers by this same Governor in 2019, they would be abandoned once the elections in March next year are over if they betray this solemn duty and responsibility they owe themselves and our dear State”.