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Diri Signs 2023 Appropriation, Contributory Pension Bills Into Law

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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has signed the 2023 Appropriation Bill of N389.37 billion into law.
He also signed a bill on the state’s Contributory Pension Scheme for civil servants, local government workers and political appointees.
Presenting the two bills for assent at the Government House in Yenagoa, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Abraham Ingobere, explained that the state and local government workers would be required to contribute 8 percent of their salaries toward their retirement, while the State Government and local government councils as their employers would contribute 10 percent on their behalf.
He noted also that political office holders are expected to contribute 10 percent of their salaries while the state government and local government councils contribute 15 percent on their behalf upon their retirement or disengagement from the service.
On the 2023 Appropriation Law, Ingobere said the initial amount presented to the Assembly for consideration was N385.21 billion, but that after consultation with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the figure was increased by N4 billion, bringing the total amount to N389.37 billion for the 2023 fiscal year.
While assenting to the bills, Governor Diri said the Contributory Pension Law would put an end to the long delay and harrowing experience retirees go through before receiving their gratuities and other entitlements.
The Governor stressed that the pension scheme had to be backed by law because of its importance, which he noted would outlive his administration.
According to him, the scheme covers all employees of the state as well as political office holders both at the state and local government levels.
He noted that through the contributory and collaborative approach, the scheme provides that the employer shall contribute 10 percent of their consolidated monthly salaries while the employee shall contribute 8percent of the consolidated monthly salary as provided by the third schedule of the law.
Diri assured workers that government would ensure that proper machinery was put in place to engage only reputable pension fund administrators to manage the funds in accordance with pension regulations.
“Upon assumption of office, we discovered that some of our elder statesmen that had served our state meritoriously over the period had died without collecting their gratuity. Most of them have been owed in arrears to the tune of billions of naira.
“l sat with my team to fashion out a way to pay off these elder statesmen. What we are doing is a policy of government and we thought it needed to be backed by law. That was why we sent an executive bill to the House of Assembly to cater for our retirees”, Governor Diri said.
The Bayelsa State Chief Executive aslo assured that the over N28 billion arrears would be paid off within the first tenure of his administration.
“When we assumed office in February 2020, a minimum of N200 million monthly was made available for the payment of gratuities and we have been doing that faithfully. And in some months, we increased it to N500 million.
“Till date, an average of N862.6 million has been expended monthly on pension issues. Also, N7.58 billion has been paid as gratuity and death benefits from February 2020 till date. However, in spite of
these payments made, the huge liability of over N28 billion for outstanding gratuity and death benefits from 2007 till date still stands.
“Going forward, we will ensure that the over N28 billion owed retirees is paid off within my first term in office”, he added.

By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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Okrika PDP Dedicates Campaign Council To God

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By: Wokoma Emmanuel & Michael Abraham 

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Okrika Local Government Area, yesterday, dedicated its Campaign Council to God at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Okrika.

The Chairman, Okrika LGA, Hon. Akuro Tobin JP, who is the Campaign Coordinator, said the rationale behind putting God first in the affairs of the Campaign Council was to ensure victory at the polls.
“When God takes over your battle as in the case of King Jehoshaphat of Judah (2 Chronicles 20:1-24), victory is guaranteed, and so the Campaign Council’s dedication to God today is to surrender the campaign team and its itinerary to God for victory in all the forthcoming elections”.

Hon. Tobin admonishing the Campaign Council to use the opportunity given to them to serve with enthusiasm, vigour, commitment and the fear of God.
He further reiterated that the campaign will be issues-based, as the Governor of Rivers State, Barr. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, Life Bender has set a precedence that is unmatched and at the LGA level, his administration has also set the ball rolling, making it very difficult for other parties and their candidates that have nothing to offer, to campaign in Okrika.

The dedication service was attended by the entire Campaign Council members and a large number of party supporters and stalwarts in the persons of Chief Ibibia Pelebo Walter, Leader of PDP, Okrika LGA and Managing Director, Port Harcourt Water Corporation; Amaopuerembo Linda Somiari-Stewart, member/candidate, Rivers State House of Assembly, Okrika Constituency; Hon. Victor Alabo, Candidate, House of Representatives, Okrika/Ogu/Bolo Federal Constituency; Hon. Mrs Charity Ibulubo, Vice Chairman, Okrika LGA and Dr Sampson Parker, Former Commissioner of Health.

Other attendees included Hon. Williams Fialaosika, Vice Chairman PDP, Rivers East Senatorial District; Hon. Oforiokuma Kwani JP, Secretary, Okrika LGA; Hon. Okpara Daka JP, Chief of Staff; Rt. Hon. Paul G. Abam, Leader, Okrika Legislative Assembly; Hon. Engr. Fred Oba Ajubolaka, Chairman PDP, Okrika LGA; Prof. Atuboyedia Obianime; Hon. Vincent Ferguson, Secretary, Campaign Council; Hon. Mrs Florence Kalio, PDP Women Leader, Okrika LGA.

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No Miracle, If Next Governor Emerges From Same Party – Traditional rulers

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Traditional rulers in Calabar Municipality said they expected no miracle if a successor of the current administration of Cross River State emerge from the same party.
The Paramount ruler of the Municipality, HRM Eta Eteta, stated this when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate visited the traditional rulers as part of his campaign tour of the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
Eteta said the present situation of things in the state did not portray it as one where people from both within and outside the country prided as a place to visit before now.
He, however, said if the plans of the PDP candidate, Sen. Sandy Onor, were implemented to the later, the state could reclaim its lost glory.
“We have heard all the good things you have planned for the state and we acknowledged your contribution to the development of the state.
“Calabar is now a shadow of its former self. People no longer want to visit Calabar again like in times past. Calabar used to be a place known as come and rest, but it’s no longer like that. Dirts have taken over the city and we pray for it to end.
“If the man on seat is not doing well, how do you expect the carbon copy of him to do well?”.
Eteta noted that the locking up of the traditional rulers Secretariat by the Calabar Municipal council was an affront on traditional institution.
He said they had to relocate venue of the meeting as a result of what he described as “unmitigated embarrassment.”
“This meeting ought to have taken place at our Secretariat but all the traditional rulers were locked out and we don’t know the reason.
“Thank God for those who gave us chair to seat. Is that how we would have received our visitors?
“Please, let it not happen again, this is very unfair to traditional rulers. Whoever has the keys should release it to the secretary of the traditional rulers”, he stated.
Earlier, Onor had told the traditional rulers of how he planned to enthrone good governance in the state.
He also promised to restore the traditional institution to its pride of place.

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UNICEF Wants End To Violence Against Women, Children In Bayelsa

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United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the Bayelsa State Government has recently concluded a two-day programme on violence against women and children in Bayelsa State.
The event tagged, “Engagement with key stakeholders for child protection, intervention in emergency in seven affected LGAs of Bayelsa”, had participants drawn from various child rights, child specialists and women groups who brainstormed on causes and measures to avert violence against women and children in the state.
Stating the rationale behind the programme, a child protection specialist from Unicef’s Enugu field office, Mr Victor Atuchukwu, noted that the Programme became imperative following the 2022 ravaging floods which displaced and exposed several women and children in the seven flood worst hit Local Government Areas of the state.
He described child protection risks in emergencies such as those occasioned by the 2022 floods as unintended injuries and death, displacement, sexual violence and abuse, family separation, child labour, emotional and psychological distress as well as physical and gender-based violence.
The Unicef child protection specialist charged stakeholders, especially community leadership to act as agents through which rights of children could be guaranteed and children protected from violence and exploitation, adding that children are future leaders who ought to be given immunity against vulnerability.
He said Children needed to be safe and their future secured even in emergencies.
Atuchukwu, who also enumerated some Unicef’s child protection responses in emergencies stated that the UN’s children fund would partner the state in the provision of mental health and psychosocial support, emergency case management for unaccompanied and separated children during emergencies in IDPs camps, provision of preventive and responsive child protection services and ensuring registration of births, as well as strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms, amongst others.
“Unicef would intervene in the rapid assessment of the impact of flooding on children across seven LGAs of Bayelsa state. We’d carry out capacity building training for seven LGAs/community social workers and service providers.
“Unicef would also carry out the identification and capacity strengthening for 231 child protection structures and services at community level family tracing and reunification of 200 children.
“We’d also identify and provide child protection services for 800 children, including girls. Unicef would provide a comprehensive psychosocial support services, including life skills education and positive parenting to 35, 000 children, adolescents and caregivers.
“We’d provide risk mitigation, prevention and response messaging and intervention to address gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual exploitation and abuse(PSEA) to 35,000 children, adolescents and caregivers”, Unicef said.
Meanwhile, intimating participants on expectations and rules of the programme, Director of Children Development Department, Bayelsa State Ministry of Women, Children Affairs, Empowerment and Social Development, Mr Panebi Jacob relived the ravaging impacts the 2022 floods had on the state.
He commended Unicef for the initiative, describing the state as having really been dealt with by the floods.
Jacob also noted that at the end of the Programme and other subsequent interventions in terms of handling emergency situations by Unicef in collaboration with the state, the issues raised, regarding exploitation, violence and gender-based inequalities against women and children would be checkmated to the barest minimum.
Highpoints of the event were goodwill messages by select Traditional rulers from the seven flood impacted LGAs of the state, including, Yenagoa, Ogbia, Nembe, Sagbama, Ekeremor, Southern Ijaw and Kolokuma/Opokuma local Government Areas, as well as other participants.

By: Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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