Isaac Ombe, Yenagoa
Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State is seeking better future for political office holders and local government workers as he signs Contributory Pensions Bill into law.
The governor has also promised to settle the over N28 billion pension arrears within the first tenure of his administration.
Governor Diri who signed the bill into law, on Tuesday, in company of the Speaker of the state Assembly, Hon. Abraham Ngobere, at the Creek Haven in Government House, in Yenagoa, said the Contributory Pension law would put an end to the long delay and harrowing experience retirees go through before receiving their gratuities and other entitlements.
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Governor Diri, who explained why it has to go through the Assembly, noted that the pension scheme had to be backed by law because of its importance, which he noted would outlive his administration.
According to him, the scheme covers all employees of the state as well as political office holders both at the state and local government levels.
He noted that through the contributory and collaborative approach, the scheme provides that the employer shall contribute 10% of their consolidated monthly salaries while the employee shall contribute 8% of the consolidated monthly salary as provided by the third schedule of the law.
The governor assured workers that the state government would ensure that proper machinery was put in place to engage only reputable pension fund administrators to manage the funds in accordance with pension regulations.
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His words: “Upon assumption of office, we discovered that some of our elder statesmen that had served our state meritoriously over the period had died without collecting their gratuity. Most of them have been owed in arrears to the tune of billions of naira.
“l sat with my team to fashion out a way to pay off these elder statesmen. What we are doing is a policy of government and we thought it needed to be backed by law. That was why we sent an Executive Bill to the House of Assembly to cater for our retirees.”
He equally assured that the over N28 billion arrears would be paid off within the first tenure of his administration.
He continued, “When we assumed office (in February 2020), a minimum of N200 million monthly was made available for the payment of gratuities and we have been doing that faithfully. And in some months, we increased it to N500 million.
“Till date, an average of N862.6 million has been expended monthly on pension issues. Also, N7.58 billion has been paid as gratuity and death benefits from February 2020 til date.
However, in spite of these payments made, the huge liability of over N28 billion for outstanding gratuity and death benefits from 2007 till date still stands, he added.
“Going forward, we will ensure that the over N28 billion owed retirees is paid off within my first term in office.
Presenting the bill, the Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, Hon. Ingobere, explained that the state and local government workers would be required to contribute 8% of their salaries toward their retirement while the state government and local government councils as their employers would contribute 10% on their behalf.
He added that political office holders are expected to contribute 10% of their salaries while the state government and local government councils contribute 15% on their behalf upon their retirement or disengagement from the service.
The event also witnessed the presentation of the 2023 Appropriation bill .of N389.37 billion for the 2023 fiscal year.