Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has said that the state government is not insensitive to the plight of pensioners in the state.
Aregbesola explained that the government is incapacitated to pay the pensioners gratuity which is about N5bn.
The governor stated this just as he called on the Federal Government to assist state governments across the country in raising bonds to pay the gratuities of state pensioners who voluntarily retired from the service to avoid the Contributory Pension Scheme.
Aregbesola made the call while playing host to the Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, Mrs Sharon Ikiazor who paid him a courtesy visit at the state secretariat on Monday.
He explained that the mass retirement of workers from the state civil service at the end of 2012, because they did not want to join the Contributory Pension Scheme, placed a gratuity burden of about N5bn in the state.
Aregbesola noted that the state has been struggling and managing to pay salaries and pension because of the continuous decline of the nation’s economy as a result of the instability in the crude oil market.
The governor said: “It’s a pity we have found ourselves in the situation we are. Because many of them (pensioners) chose to leave the service at the end of 2012 because they did not want to join the contributory pension scheme, the state has a gratuity burden of about N5bn.
“As at the time they were leaving, the state was already struggling to pay salaries as a result of the sharp drop in the revenue accruable to the federal government.
“It started with a drop of about N600 million and it later jumped toN1bn. If we could not meet up with their gratuity in 2012, how could we do it in 2013 or 2014 when it was getting tougher? Or is it going to be now when there is still a lot of instability in the crude oil market?
Aregbesola said the call for the FG’s intervention in the payment of gratuity for the state pensioners through the provision of bonds became imperative because state governments in the country are under serious financial burdens.
According to Aregbesola, the bonds which will be paid back by the state government with ease will go a long way in relieving the states of the financial burden, ensure prompt payment to pensioners and as well boost the nation’s economy as money will be in circulation.
The governor disclosed that a lot of states across the federation who have joined the Contributory Pension Scheme are finding it difficult to offset the huge gratuity of pensioners accumulated as a result of the mass exodus from the service because they did not want to join the new pension regime.
He said:”Because many of the workers did not want to join the contributory pension scheme, a lot of them exited the service at the same time, thereby making state governments to have huge gratuity responsibilities upon them.
“I believe the Federal government can assist the state governments in raising bonds which will be paid back with ease. With the bonds, the state governments can pay the gratuities of these pensioners, thereby injecting money into the economy and boost the economy in return.
“I believe we must do all we can to ease the sufferings of the people and this is a good avenue to inject money into the system. I urge the Federal government to assist in easing the burden of the states concerning this issue because I believe they have the capacity to do it”.
Speaking earlier, the Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, Mrs Sharon Ikiazor stated that the directorate is in the state for the continuous pension verification exercise of federal pensioners.
“We are here to carry out the usual verification exercise of federal pensioners and we are satisfied with the hospitality we have received”, she said.