Ten pensioners died in Abia State last year on account of irregular payment of their monthly pensions. This disclosure is coming as aggrieved pensioners yesterday took to the streets of Umuahia, the Abia State capital, to protest non-payment of their pensions for the past three months.
Apart from the pension arrears, the pensioners also claimed that most of them were yet to receive their gratuity many years after retiring from service, while the arrears arising from the harmonisation of pensions were reportedly high.
The retirees numbering about 100 marched sluggishly along the streets of Bende Road, Aba Road, Akanu Ibiam Road and terminated at Okpara square. At the respective inter-sections of these roads, the senile men stopped and made supplications to God to touch the hearts of those in power to pay their emoluments to forestall their untimely death.
The protest march affected traffic flow as the old men covered one lane of the road. However, after a frantic appeal by one of them, they created a little space for drivers to manouvre.
Speaking with The Tide, Vice Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Umuahia Branch, Deacon Ama Ugo Daniel, lamented that their members had been exposed to untold hardship as they could no longer perform their role as bread winners of their families.
According to him, pensioners in Abia State received only four month pay in a year. In a bitter voice, he said, “We put in 35 years of service and retired but now we have been rejected. We are not paid our entitlements as at when due. When they owe us for four months, they would offset just one month. They do not want us to train our children and honour our financial obligations as heads of our families”.
“Justifying their protest march, Daniel said “our march is to draw attention to our plights and press for the payment of our pension arrears now in the third month. As a result of the irregularity in paying our pensions, 10 of our members died last year when they could no longer put up with the hardship being imposed on us”.
Another aggrieved pensioner accused government of being insensitive to the welfare of pensioners. He said that they were tossed around each time they visit the Umuahia Sub-Treasury office for their pension at the end of every month.
“Officers at the Sub-treasury keep telling us come today, come tomorrow and in the end, we will not receive a dime. Instead of them to inform us that the there is no money, they continually raise our hopes only to dash it in the end. The government should be sensitive to our plight,” said the pensioner who craved anonymity.
Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Nick Eleri, to speak on the matter proved abortive as he was said not to be on seat when The Tide called.
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, on assumption of office, set aside N30million monthly for payment of gratuity and pensions. However, the practice was jettisoned after about three months.
Nigeria’s Revenue-To-GDP Ratio Lowest, Private Sector Choking – World Bank
Nigeria’s revenue-to-Gross Domestic Product ratio, which fell to between five and six per cent last year, is the lowest in the world, the World Bank said on Monday.
The Country Director for Nigeria, World Bank, Dr Shubham Chaudhuri, said this during a panel session at a virtual public sector seminar with the theme ‘Nigeria in challenging times: imperatives for a cohesive national development agenda’ organised by the Lagos Business School.
Chaudhuri, who stressed the need for private investment for the country to realise its potential, said the private sector in the country ‘is struggling to breathe’.
“In Nigeria, I think the basic economic agenda is about diversification away from oil because oil has really been like resource curse for Nigeria on multiple dimensions,” he said.
He noted the aspiration of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by the end of the decade.
He said, “Nigeria is a country with tremendous potential. If you look at the synopsis for this panel, it suggests that Nigeria is at a critical juncture – almost at the moment of crisis.
“Despite all of that, Nigeria is still the largest economy in Africa. So, just think about the potential that Nigeria has because of its natural resources, but more than that, because of its dynamism and all of its population. Nigerians are more entrepreneurial by nature.
“No country has become prosperous and realised its potential, eliminated poverty without doing two simple things: investing in its people, and unleashing the power of the private sector in creating jobs by investing and growing business. And then, of course, the basic function of the state is to provide security and law and order.”
According to Chaudhuri, to invest in people entails basic services, basic education, primary healthcare and nutrition, among others.
He said, “On this, Nigeria at the moment ranks sixth from the bottom in terms of the human capital index that we produce every year.
“So, obviously, there is a huge agenda in terms of investing in human capital. Nigeria spends more on PMS (premium motor spirit) subsidy than it does on primary healthcare in a year, and we know who the PMS subsidy is benefitting.”
He indicated that despite the country’s huge potential to attract private capital, the non-oil part of the economy ‘is not growing that robustly and certainly not generating revenues that the government needs’.
Chaudhuri said, “So, we see as priorities investments in human capital. But for that, one needs revenues. And there again, Nigeria unfortunately has the distinction of having about the lowest revenue-to-GDP ratio in the world.
”The standard rule of thumb is that for government to provide the basic services and law and order, it needs between 15 to 20 per cent of GDP as being revenue, and this will be both at the federal and state levels combined.
“In Nigeria, it was eight per cent in 2019. In 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis and with the fall in oil prices, that went down to about between five and six per cent.
“So, domestic revenue mobilisation is huge. And then the third is enabling the space for private investment. You have to fix the power problem. Power is like the oxygen of an economy. In Nigeria, the private sector is struggling to breathe.”
CBN Stops Sale Of Forex To BDCs
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as announced immediate discontinuation of sale of Foreign Exchange (forex) to Bureau de Change (BDC) operators in the country.
Mr Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor , made this announcement yesterday, while presenting a communique from the apex bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja.
Emefiele said that the decision was informed by the unwholesome business practices of the BDCs, which he said had continued to put enormous pressure on the Naira.
He said , henceforth, the apex bank would sell forex to deserving Nigerians through the commercial banks.
“ The BDCs were regulated to sell a maximum of 5000 dollars per day, but CBN observed that they have since been flouting that regulation and selling millions of dollars per day.
“The CBN also observed that the BDCs aid illicit financial flows and other financial crimes. The bank has thus, decided to discontinue the sale of forex to the BDCs with immediate effect.
“We shall, henceforth, channel all forex allocation through the commercial banks,” he said.
He urged the commercial banks to ensure that every deserving customer got their forex demand, adding that any bank found circumventing the new system would be sanctioned.
“Once a customer presents all required documentation to purchase forex, the commercial banks should ensure they get the forex.
“Any customer that is denied should contact the CBN on 0700385526 or through the email- firstname.lastname@example.org “ he said.
The Tide source reports that stakeholders have been calling on the CBN and its MPC to take urgent steps to halt unending depreciation of the Naira.
Recently, a past President of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Mr Okechukwu Unegbu, urged the MPC to focus on policy decisions that would curb rising inflation and stabilise the Naira.
RSG To Privatise Songhai, Fish Farms
There are strong indications that the Rivers State Government has concluded plans to privatise the moribund Songhai Farm in Tai and Fish Farm in Buguma.
The State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Amb. Desmond Akawor, gave this indication while appearing in a phone-in radio programme organised by Silverbird Communications in Port Harcourt at the weekend.
He explained that the previous administration in the state failed to put in place a sustainability programme for these farms, hence they went moribund.
In order to reverse the situation, he said that the present administration was now contemplating a rehabilitation scheme to be driven by a privatisation policy to enable those investments come on stream.
He said the scheme had reached an advanced stage and is to executed by the State Ministry of Agriculture.
On the issue of job creation, Akawor said the administration of Chief Nyesom Wike was using the various construction projects around the state to empower the youths.
He explained that the government had floated a special scholarship scheme in Law and Medical Sciences to create opportunities for young people in various professions.
He called on the opposition to desist from de-marketing the state through propaganda as it’s capable of scaring investors away from the state.
Akawor insisted that the Wike led administration has provided an enabling environment for businesses to thrive through infrastructure and improved security.
By: Kevin Nengia
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