Pensioners in Enugu State Local Government system some of whom retired 15 years ago but have just been paid their gratuities have described Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as God-sent who has salvaged the long-forgotten senior citizens.
“Since this governor has remembered us, those government forgot for more than ten years, God will not forget him, he will live long, and he will win election many, many tines”, declared one of the pensioners, Elder Ishiwu Romanus Ezeugwu, at Ogbede, headquarters of Igbo-Etiti local council area yesterday after collecting a cheque in lieu of his gratuity.
The elder statesman, along with other pensioners, are beneficiaries of the on-going payment of outstanding salaries, pensions and gratuities owed local government workers and pensioners alike by a committee set up by Enugu state Government.
The retirees who left service between 2002 and 2005 are justifiably elated because since they left service, the previous administrations could neither pay their gratuities nor their pensions until Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration began this on-going exercise.
Committee chairman and permanent secretary in the State Ministry of Finance, Dr. Ben Ezema told newsmen that one of the venues for the payment exercise, that at Ezeagu local government headquarters, 700 pensioners who had waited in vain in the past decade have eventually collected their gratuities.
At Igbo-Eze South local government, 500 pensioners were paid while at Nkanu East local government, 400 retirees were paid their gratuities,
the permanent secretary also informed. The exercise continues today at Isi-Uzo local council headquarters, Ikem.
A female pensioner, Mrs. Gladys Okonkwo, retired in 2002 but had since then received not been paid her gratuities and she enthused thus: “we have never seen any governor like this. We pray that God will continue to protect him and guide him to continue to help the less-privileged”.
In the same vein, Messrs linus Ozongwu, Valentine Offor and Paul Okechukwu, who like Mrs. Okonkwo were paid at Ezeagu council headquarters commended the governor while also praying for the continued success of his administration.
Reliving his experience since retirement in over 10 years ago, Elder Ishiwu aforementioned said “I retired as a hall supervisor on grade level 7. I am over 70 years now. I retired in 2005 and since then, I
have not received my gratuity until today when this governor is helping us”.
Like Odenyi Odo and Frederick Odo, pensioners who were also paid their
gratuities at Ogbede, Elder Ishiwu, John Asadu and Obeta Cletus literally invoked God to preserve Governor Ugwuanyi whom they described as governor for the ordinary people of Enugu state.
“ Let him continue to be on the seat because he is good in his governance for Enugu State. If I have the powers to let him go four times, I will do that”, stated Elder Ishiwu.
The payment committee chairman explained that approximately N3billion has been earmarked to take care of this salvage measure by the state government, adding that arrears of pensions and gratuities would gulp N1.9billion while arrears of leave allowances owed local council workers across the 17 local government areas of the state will be settled with the sum of N700million, among others.
The council workers have also been collecting their leave bonuses along with the pensioners at the various venues.
President of the Enugu state chapter of the National Union of Local Government Employees, Comrade Ken Ugwueze, himself a member of the committee, told newsmen that “what is happening to local government employees in the state under Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration is a phenomenon in the history of local government service in the state”.
He stated that “we are happy to be union leaders at this point in time when other states are hit by crisis of poor welfare but here, we are inundated with government’s unprecedented goodwill. We shall reward this governor abundantly at the appropriate time”.