For pensioners of Bayelsa State, the pains and the sufferings they passed through under the past administrations in more than 12 years are not something they want to remember.
The pensioners recalled with pains that during the immediate past administration of Seriake Dickson, efforts were made to set aside N250 million monthly to pay the pensioners, but after the initial release of N1billion for four months, the payment was stopped causing untold hardships to the pensioners.
A cross-section of the retirees who spoke to Vanguard lauded the present government for ensuring that the lower cadre of the retirees from levels 1 to 12 are taking care of before their senior counterparts as part of measures to address the problems that have lingered on over 12 years.
According to a retiree, Mr. Chris Odi, “No pensioner is being owed his/her monthly payment in Bayelsa State. Yes, pensioners are being paid usually about a week after civil servants are paid but beyond that little delay, pensions are paid regularly, every month. Pension for December even came early because of Christmas. I received my pension for December on Friday, 24th.”
Another retiree who spoke anonymously admitted that even when gratuities were not paid by the administrations of Sylva and Dickson some pensioners with the right connection were paid.
He said: “Unfortunately, however, there is a backlog of gratuity and this is because since the period of Timipre Sylva, up until the immediate past administrations of Dickson, gratuities were not paid.
“When Dickson came on board, he promised to pay gratuity even before a worker disengages from service. He promised to release funds monthly for this purpose but failed to continue after releasing between N250 and N300 million monthly for four months. But those with the right connections were paid their gratuities.
“Fortunately, however, everything changed with the coming of Douye Diri. He made a promise of releasing N200 million monthly exclusively for the payment of gratuities. But this is rather slow because he is clearing a backlog dating back to 2007/2008. We are told they have cleared up to 2012. The process is long and slow but at least, it is steady and the governor has faithfully kept to his promise.
“I thank God I am doing fine because I was fortunate to have risen to the pinnacle of my career as a civil servant (Salary grade level 17) where the salary is a bit fine. Those who retire on anything less than grade level 12 may be going home with peanut as monthly pension because salaries of civil servants are generally poor.
“I think the state government should allow pensioners enjoy some discount in the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme. They should not pay as much as regular civil servants. This is important because we know of some people who spend as much as N20,000 monthly on drugs alone, out of a pension of about N115,000 monthly.
“Government can also hold get-together parties with pensioners once in a while, because their children may have gotten married and they are very lonely. This will give them a sense of belonging. Lastly, the government can make a conscious effort to build living quarters for retirees just as it has for serving civil servants because paying exorbitant house rent from pension may be too burdensome for pensioners.”
Governor Diri at a recent function where he hosted some of the state senior citizens had assured that plans were underway to collaborate with pension managers to ensure that they (retirees) get their benefits promptly.
He said: “One of the focal points of every civil servant is that when they retire, they expect their pension on monthly basis.
“We have promised not to treat our senior citizens with levity and would like to keep that promise as long as we remain in the saddle of governance in Bayelsa State.”
Also, Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, and pensioners in Bayelsa State had during Maybp Day celebration commended Diri for prioritising the welfare of pensioners and retirees in the state noting that since it was sworn in, the present administration had been consistent in payment of their monthly pension, implementation of the approved 33 per cent pension harmonization from January 2020 as well as released for payment of gratuity and death benefits to pensioners.