PAYMENT OF GRATUITY : BAGUDU IN THE THRESHOLD OF HISTORY

PAYMENT OF GRATUITY : BAGUDU IN THE THRESHOLD OF HISTORY


It is certainly the dream of every civil servant to happily retire after diligently, patriotically and religiously working to develop their fatherland, either at the federal, state or local government levels.  Workers do retire after attaining the mandatory age of 60 years or might have put 35 years of active service.

It is however regrettable that at a time when such senior citizens are supposed to rest and reap the fruits of their labour, in some instances, that's the beginning of their sufferings. This is obnoxiously occasioned by the non payment of their retirement benefits like gratuity and monthly pensions. 

Even in Nigeria, this is the pathetic story of many retirees. They unfortunately begin to wallow in abject poverty, penury and illnesses, often resulting in deaths, although their hard-earned benefits that had accumulated over their active service years are idling elsewhere, or often at wrist, being enjoyed by some rip-raps.

However, in Kebbi State,  the story is different. It is indeed a happy story in Kebbi State. This is sequel to the fact that, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu is a retirees-friendly Governor. He has made it a point of duty to settle all the benefits of retirees, as at when due. Payment of salaries and other benefits of those still in service is also prioritized. In this direction, Kebbi State is blazing the trail.

He has always emphasized that work done must be paid so that our efforts will not be in vain . This is a popular saying amongst civil servants particularly retirees who are entitled to get their gratuity. 

Gratuity is the sum of money given by the employer to his employee at the time of retirement after putting many years in service say 30 to 35 years as stipulated by law . It is also defined as a planned money given as benefit to employer when he retires from work after putting in years of service.

 It is very clear that without workers support, no government can succeed in its programs and activities as they represent the machinery through which government policies and programmes are executed for socio-economic development of the state and country at large.

However, it is sad to note that in many states of Nigeria, the efforts of hardworking workers are left in toil after leaving office (retirement) without collecting their gratuity from the employers. We wake up to the unpleasant reports and scenes in the media of protest and outcry by retirees many of them aged begging for their gratuity .

This ugly situation has made them helpless, making them unable to cater for the welfare of their families such as ; feeding, payment of school fees and even medical bills . This often results to untold hardship to the retirees leading to depression, hypertension and sometimes death.

The backlog of pension and gratuity owed retired civil servants in many states of Nigeria is disturbing . This could be in some cases due to corruption, dwindling revenue and poor management of finances of the states. Almost all the states rely on the monthly allocation from the Federal Government to pay salary, unfortunately remittances from the crude oil sells from NNPC is going down which has affected money got into the coffers of State Governments. Some States are owing retired workers huge amount of unpaid gratuities, this is according to an investigative story carried out by a National Newspaper , ' Nation ' with a caption “No respite for states pension arrears, workers’ salaries published on July 10, 2022 (Online). 

The report further said that some of the States could not even pay their monthly salaries as when due talk less of pension and gratuity to retired workers.

However the situation is a happy one in Kebbi State due to the tenacity, good leadership and prudent management of resources by Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, the Kebbi State Governor. Since he assumed office as the governor of the state in 2015, the Governor made conscious and concerted efforts to ensure that all outstanding entitlements of civil servants both working and retired are settled.

 This is in spite of the lean resources of the State and the backlog of unpaid gratuity and pension arrears he inherited from the past administration. The backlog of inherited arrears of gratuity Bagudu’s administration inherited amounted to over 20 billion naira. Retired workers in Kebbi State have been paid their gratuity up to 2021 and the process to pay 2022 retired workers is on course. Interestingly also, monthly salary and pension is paid regularly unabated as and when due.

The Acting Head of Service of Kebbi State, Alhaji Safiyanu Garba Bena gave a detailed explanation on the effort of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu"s administration to pay retired workers their Pension and Gratuity as well as regular payment of salary since he assumed office in 2015.

" Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu inherited backlog of gratuity and pension arrears worth Billions of naira. Retirees were owing the Government huge sum of money as gratuity, so he made concious effort to offset all the backlog of retired workers arrears .

 He averred ' Retirees were being owed huge sums of money, so what he did in his conscious effort to solve the problem, he granted a  approval in the sum of over 20 Billion Naira i.e. from 2016 to 2018. And then he has not relented, he continued, that was why my own committee came up in conjunction with Kwaido’s committee.

' He is still not satisfied with the way and manner pension and gratuity are paid, he mandated my office to as a matter of transparency come-up with a committee that will complement the effort of Kwaido committee that has been in existence even before he came.

' So, my committee swung into action by screening further the submission of Kwaido committee. This is not to witch-hunt anybody. He mandated me to work hand in hand with Kwaido committee so that the hues and cries that were received are being taken cared of. Some complained that they are being surcharged or short changed, while others experienced under payment.

' So he directed me to swing into action to make sure that Kwaido committee and my committee work hand in hand to make sure that based on the submission of Kwaido committee, the process is transparent and smooth . He mandated me to find out about the hues and cries about the balances of 2017 and 2018. 

 'Kwaido committee submitted its own version, we screened and came up with a figure. For instance, Kwaido committee forwarded about four hundred and twenty million naira for the payment of balances of 2017 and 2018.

' In our wisdom, we screened the submission of the committee, the figure slightly dropped to three hundred and eighty one million, seven seven eight thousand , six twenty three, point six eight  .

' So having been satisfied with the work of our committee, His Excellency again directed that, we should go ahead to screen beneficiaries of 2019. So we did the same thing for 2020 and 2021 we did the same thing again . Based on this, I sent to the governor the memo and approval for a whopping sum of ten billion, one hundred and seventy five million, six six three thousand, zero zero two was granted by the governor .

 "' This is in addition to payment of backlog of gratuity amounting to 20 billion, so when put together, you will discover that his Excellency had granted approval of over 30 billion naira cumulatively ", he averred .

The Acting HOS further explained ' Kebbi State is ahead of others as far as the prompt payment of retirees' benefits. This is when some States cannot even pay the monthly salaries. Some of the states are even owing an upward of 25 months of salaries, apart from the backlogs of pension and gratuity. What a happy story, authored by a people-friendly Governor. 

'' So, we remain eternally grateful to the governor for his uncommon benevolence and commitment to the welfare of the retirees and the active civil servants. Kebbi State is second to none. All these are due to the wonderful efforts of Governor Bagudu . 

"We are right now making frantic efforts to defray the balances of 2017/2018. The beneficiaries will soon be screened. Thereafter,  we will receive submissions from the Kwaido committee for those being owed from Dec. 2021 to July, 2022. Thereafter, the payment would be effected monthly, as at when due . This is highly commendable as Kebbi has become a pacesetter. Kudos ," he added.

He also made an inference to a recent report in some media outfits on the states owing retirees their entitlements . Although Kebbi was not on the list, yet, the state should have been commended by the authors of that report. This should have served as a carrot and stick, or at best, reward and punishment. Kebbi is indeed leading the pack in this direction. 

The Kebbi State NLC Chairman, Comrade Halidu Alhassan was full of praises to Governor Bagudu for clearing the backlog of the pension areas he inherited and sustaining the payment of pension and gratuity up to 2021. 

He also commended the Governor for his unwavering effort in the prompt payment of monthly salary.

'  Really I can say since the inception of this administration, workers have seen tremendous changes in respect of their welfare. I cannot say it is 100 percent but whatsoever he has done a lot, he has taken care of the major needs of workers in the state.

' Since he came into power in 2015 there is no month the governor did not pay salary which is different from other states. Secondly, when you retire in the same month you  will receive your pension. 

' Based on this, our national headquarters in Abuja have commended and acknowledged Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu for being one of the few State Governors that pay retired workers their pension and gratuity.

The NLC Chairman emphasized that ' The governor has cleared the backlog of arrears of unpaid gratuity he inherited from previous administration and he is up to date in payment of gratuity up to 2021 and now the process of paying 2022 is on course. Our only appeal now to the Governor is to the payment of our outstanding leave grant ', he prayed.

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