Writes Ohayi Ukwueze
The unpaid arrears of pensions and gratuities of retirees of Enugu State civil service had constituted itself a monumental dung in the stable. Past Enugu administrations dating back to 1999 had caved in before this financial obligation to the senior citizens. The immediate past administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had made efforts to cleanse the dung, but its humongous mass had stuck to the ground inexorably. This burden Mbah inherited. Now, Governor Mbah is set to cleanse the Augean stable
During the electioneering campaigns, Mbah had promised to clear the arrears of pensions and gratuities, running into billions of naira. He had said he would find money with which to clear the arrears, and then enroll the workers into pension funds schemes which would permanently solve the problem associated with non-payment of pensions.
The pension question, having defied past administrations, appeared intractable, and so Mbah’s promise to clear the arrears sounded Greek to the ears. It was just one of the empty promises politicians make in order to attract votes. If the previous administrations struggled with payment of pensions and gratuities, how could anyone think they would easily clear the arrears? Many had thought in doubt. But Governor Mbah would not say what he would not do. He has the solution to the economic question. He would grow the economy of the state sevenfold and eradicate poverty to zero level.
Adding salt to injury is the present economic situation of the country. The removal of fuel subsidy has exacerbated the situation. Nigerians are currently faced with untold hardship as the cost of living has become unbearably high. Even the rich also cry, much less the vulnerable poor.
The citizens’ purchasing power has been reduced to the low ebb. Something has got to be done to palliate the pangs of the blighting situation. Governor Mbah quickly waded in, and set up a palliative committee to oversee the provision of palliatives that would cushion the effects. The Deputy Governor, Barr. Ifeanyi Ossai, heads the committee. Ossai himself like Mbah knows his onions. He is thorough, meticulous, wise, intelligent and selfless. He surely will make good this task committed into his capable hand.
But Mbah was yet done.. He recognizes the fact that the senior citizens fall within the rung of the most vulnerable, and following his determination to ameliorate the situation, the governor set up a committee to determine and verify the outstanding arrears of pensions and gratuities, conduct payments according to months and years of retirement of officers from service, and then render monthly and quarterly reports to the SSG in respect of all payments. The seven-man committee is headed by the SSG, Prof. Chidiebere Onyia.
Over N2 billion has been earmarked for the first tranche of payment. By implication, the sum of N2 billion shall be injected into the Enugu economy via the vulnerable at the grassroots. The outstanding two months pension arrears from the previous government is about N900 million.
The Ugwuanyi administration had done well to reduce the outstanding backlog of monthly pensions, only it left two months unpaid. However, the gratuities, totally , N36 billion was passed on to the Mbah Administration It is this rock of Gibraltar that Governor Mbah is set to lift out of the economic space. The Mbah Administration is minded to cleanse this Augean stable in its commitment to the eradication of poverty in Enugu State.
Governor Mbah has demonstrated unwavering commitment to his administration’s policy thrust of exponential economic growth and zero percent poverty headcount index. He has within two months of his administration cleared every stump on the way to this drive. He is deliberate and methodical about the implementation of his manifesto.
Every item in the manifesto is tied to models and time, and their implementation is given to religious adherence. Ban on sit-at-home is one; operationalization of the international and cargo wings of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport to make for exports is the other.
The committee on palliatives is one; the committee on pension verification and payment is the other. The provision of water for Enugu within 180 days of his administration is one; the construction of 43 roads awaiting EXCO endorsement is another. The Diaspora Investment Roundtable slated for September is one; the construction of 260 model schools in all the wards in the state is quite another. More are one; more are the other.
When the righteous is on the throne, the people rejoice.. The Mbah administration is sacrificially transcendental. His Excellency, Governor Mbah, has come to serve, and turn around the economy of the state for the benefit and wellbeing of the people. All that is required is the maximum corporation and support of the people. Indeed, Tomorrow Is Here.