The Abia State Commissioner for Finance, in Abia, Mr Aham Uko, says the state is putting pragmatic measures in place to offset a whooping N21 billion pension arrears.
Uko made the disclosure when he briefed newsmen in Umuahia on a fresh biometric verification of pensioners by the ministry, which kicked off in different parts of the state on Monday.
He said that the exercise was part of the measures designed to “remove irregular names” from the list and ascertain the exact number of genuine pensioners.
He further said that the verification was exclusive to state government and primary school retirees and entailed fingerprints and facial capturing of the pensioners.
The commissioner said that the 10-day exercise would end on March 27 to enable the ministry to pay the March pension to successful pensioners.
Uko said: “Government deemed it fit to conduct the biometric verification for pensioners to ascertain who the genuine pensioners are.
“The essence is to regularise and update the list of pensioners and remove the names of dead pensioners.
“Government’s intention is to ensure regular and seamless payment of pensions.”
He regretted that the ministry still had the names of dead pensioners running for upward of 10 years, adding that normally such beneficiaries “should not benefit beyond five years.”
He said that the exercise would help the government “to establish the quantum of arrears and be able to appropriate funds to liquidate the arrears in the coming months.”
The commissioner said that 55 persons were trained to run the exercise, adding that the ministry procured a server, plus a virtual server, for data storage at the end of the programme.
He said that arrangements were made to accommodate genuine pensioners, who travelled outside Nigeria.
“We made provision to capture spillovers, especially genuine pensioners outside Nigeria,” he said, adding that such persons should supply the vital information via the ministry’s website.
Uko said that plans were underway to also introduce Bank Verification Numbers to avoid duplication of names, in addition to creating a database for pensioners.
The commissioner said that the verification would help the ministry to have a comprehensive list of all the retirees, including those that retired from November 2019 to February.
He said that a list from Establishment and Pensions showed that the state’s monthly pension bill stood at N510 million before October but got reduced to N380 million after manual verifications.
“By the time we succeed in removing all the irregular names, the arrears would further come down.
“The ultimate objective is to ensure that after the verification, pensions would be paid as and when due,” he said.
The commissioner said that the ministry would extend the biometric verification to local government pensioners at the end of the ongoing exercise at the state level.
He also said that a similar verification would be conducted for the state civil servants in line with the government’s plan for automated salary payment to workers.
“By the time we automate salary payment, we shall no longer need the payroll officers and Directors of Finance to prepare salary schedule before we can pay salaries, except when there are transfers and promotions,” he said.
He said that adequate arrangements were put in place, including the provision of refreshment, free medical services and counselling, to make the verification stress-free for retirees.
Uko also spoke on the lingering inability of the government to pay gratuity to retirees, saying that he had not received the governor’s authorisation on that.
He said that government’s major concern presently was to stabilise and regularise the payment of pensions.
According to him, after that, government may begin to work out a strategy to set aside funds for the gradual payment of gratuities.
CAC Registers 245,000 SMEs Free Of Charge
The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) says it has registered more than 245,000 Small and Medium Enterp-rises free of charge.
The Registrar-General, Alhaji Garba Abubakar, said in Abuja on Wednesday that it did this with the approval of the Federal Government.
The Federal Government, he said, approved the free registration of 250,000 business names as part of its intervention to assuage the economic effect of Covid-19.
He said the Federal Government paid 50 per cent of the cost of registration to CAC and more than 245,000 business names were consequently registered.
Abubakar explained that the process was electronic and applicants also got their certificates electronically.
He added that the numbers were divided between the 36 states of the federation and the FCT noting that Lagos, Abia and Kano States had the largest numbers.
He said free registration of 6, 606 business names was approved for 33 states while Abia, Lagos and Kano States would have 7, 906, 9,084 and 8,406 respectively.
Abubakar noted that aggregators were appointed and paid to collect SMEs information and submit same to CAC.
He explained that the commission provided special access for the aggregators for effective service delivery since they were responsible for scanning and uploading of documents.
He added that CAC had to take over from one of the aggregators appointed for two states but failed to deliver.
Abubakar said also that the intervention of CAC and appointment of substitute aggregators to take over in the two states sped up the process, already nearing completion.
“We are hoping that by end of September the exercise will come to an end,’’ he said.
IPMAN Seeks Foreign Partnership For Robust Refinery Deal
The Chairman, Rivers State Chapter of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Mr King Eppie, has said that he would be seeking the partnership of foreign bodies as part of his plans to strengthen the association.
Eppie said this when he spoke in a chat with newsmen in his office in Eleme, Eleme Local Government Area, Rivers State, Wednesday.
He pointed out that such plans would also encourage business growth especially to some of his members whom he said are experiencing stormy business weather.
According to him, the challenging business condition was as a result of non functional refineries in the country, stressing the need to seek for partnership.
He said that since its core business area was petroleum products, that his leadership would do all within its reach to improve the system.
The Rivers IPMAN boss, expressed hope that the ailing refineries in the country would bounce back to life.
“ I will be happy to see the refineries working again. Most of our members are suffering and business is no longer what it used to be, that’s why I want the refineries to come back to operation”, he said.
About the issue of legal battle in the association, he said that his team has been vindicated by the Apex court by declaring him the authentic chairman of IPMAN in Rivers State.
He recalled that the association was in a legal battle for about eight years, but expressed joy over its victorious end.
To those who were on the other side of the divide, he said that he has extended an olive branch to them as part of his plans to run an all inclusive government.
“ The platform for those who went to court against us has been created for them to come back to the fold. IPMAN is one in the state and we are open to all, that is why we want everyone to come back”, he said.
The Tide learnt that the IPMAN chairman is barely one week in office after years of legal battle that greeted the association as a result of leadership tussle.
1,818 MSMEs Benefit From Covid-19 Recovery Package In Delta
No fewer than 1,818 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have benefited from Federal Government and the World Bank Covid-19 Action Recovery Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) in Delta.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa addressed the beneficiaries at the launch of funds disbursement in Asaba on Wednesday.
He commended the Federal Government and the World Bank for the partnership to provide succour for those affected by the pandemic in the country.
He said that now that the scheme had been domesticated in the state, the beneficiaries were in the first phase of the programme.
Okowa also lauded the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) for supporting the federal government to ensure that the programme was approved by the World Bank for implementation in Nigeria.
He also thanked the World Bank for the intervention and for working with state governments in the country towards cushioning the socio-economic effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the people, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
According to Okowa, today’s ceremony is a major step at putting MSMEs that are badly hurt by the pandemic on the path of recovery and growth.
He said this was “more so, with the disbursement of funds to the first set of 1,818 beneficiaries who have met the World Bank stipulated eligibility criteria within the initial six months.
“A total of 2,529 MSMEs are expected to receive grants to support post-covid-19 loans, operational costs and to enhance their IT capabilities.
“Indeed, we are glad to be part of the CARES programme of the Federal Government.
“The focus of intervention clearly aligns with the priority of the state government to give relief to those whose lives, businesses, jobs and means of livelihood have been distorted by the pandemic.
“The programme, which we have domesticated as the Delta CARES, is a two-year emergency recovery programme.
“It is aimed at supporting state governments’ budgeted programme of expenditures and interventions.
“It is to enable them to expand access to livelihood support, food security services, and grants for poor and vulnerable households and firms,” he said.
He said that the programme would also directly support 25,269 poor and vulnerable households with social transfers, basic services and livelihood grants.
The governor said it would as well support 13,976 farmers to boost food production and ensure smooth functioning of the food supply chain.
“The outlined figures are the targets stipulated by the World Bank, but do not preclude the State Government from scaling up if the need arises.
“It is my expectation that those charged with the implementation of Delta-CARES will be faithful in executing the mandate so that the desired results are achieved, bearing in mind that it is a Programme for Result (PforR),” Okowa said.
On his part, Dr Barry Pere-Gbe, Chairman, Steering Committee for Delta-CARES and State Commissioner for Economic Planning, commended Okowa for providing the funds for the programme.
Pere-Gbe was represented by the Commissioner for Youths Development, Mr Ifeanyi Egwunyenga.
He said that the main focus of the programme was to bring succour to residents whose means of livelihood had been disrupted by the impacts of Covid-19.
He said that the programme was hinged on three thematic area.
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