Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, has assured pensioners that the House will meet with Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari to work out a definite plan to offset outstanding pension liabilities which currently stands at over N200 billion.
He also disclosed that the House will tomorrow (Thursday), consider a motion to invite all key players in charge of pension matters to appear in plenary next week Thursday to speak on how they plan to clear the pension liabilities.
Speaking when he received a delegation from the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, led by its national president, Dr Abel Afolayan, in the National Assembly, the Speaker emphasised that all pensions due to retired public service workers must be paid because it is a constitutionally provided right to be paid their pension.
“If pension is a right and pensioners must be paid, it means that the federal government is indebted, it is in debt and if it is paid, the government is not doing a favour to anybody, we don’t even deserve any thanks because pension is earned is a right.
“There is no politician out there from the number one politician who is Mr President, down to us, who did not take an oath to defend and protect the provisions of this Constitution. So, unless there are plausible reasons why the pensions cannot be paid, reasons that are patently clear, then it will appear that for us to fail in this regard, we will be breaching our oaths of office. That is how serious this matter is.”
Mr Dogara further noted that the federal government’s fight against corruption in the public service will be greatly enhanced by prompt and due payment of pensions and pension liabilities as this will reduce the temptation to divert public funds for post-retirement upkeep by public servants.
He assured the delegation that the House will ensure that it “speaks with a loud and clear voice” on the need to make this aspect a priority, while casting doubts that President Muhammadu Buhari is aware of the huge debts owed them.
“The President is a pensioner himself, he is and I know that he has always been concerned about issues related to salaries and pensions. He has been so concerned that he has extended assistance to state governments to bail them out with funds to pay for salaries and pension at state levels and I believe having taken such steps he won’t be so unconcerned about his own responsibility to pensioners of the federal Republic. So I believe there is a disconnect somewhere and that is what we have to connect now and to see that even if the last person in the state gets his salary and pension, if we don’t address our pensioners at the federal level, we have failed. and that message will be delivered by God’s grace,” he assured.
Earlier, national president of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Dr Abel Afolayan, appealed to the Speaker and his colleagues in the National Assembly to use their good offices to provide sufficient funds in the 2017 budget to offset the pension liabilities owed pensioners across the country.
The union also appealed that pension should be put on first line charge to put an end to the traditional rigorous budgetary allocation process, and solicited assistance of the Speaker to facilitate the payment of outstanding 18 months arrears of the 33 percent pension increase.
The House had last week passed a Resolution urging the Federal government to offset three years pension arrears owed pensioners since 2014.