Delta State Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Hon. Victor Ebonka, has denied deducting N4 million from retired local government workers and primary school teachers in the state.
Ebonka who spoke to Journalists in Asaba on Tuesday, described the allegations as outright falsehood and challenged the retirees behind the allegation to invite any investigating authority into the matter.
The ALGON boss said the N40 billion loan facilitated and guaranteed by the state government on behalf of ALGON, was meant to pay accrued benefits of retired local government workers, primary school teachers and staff of the Local Education Authorities.
According to him, the retired teachers’ union and the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in the state were all involved in the tripartite negotiations with the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), on the issue.
He said all parties agreed that the services of a consultant was necessary due to the huge amount involved in order to correctly determine the entitlement of each retiree.
According to him, ”the first meeting we had was at the SSG’s office. We made it known to them that we cannot pay this huge amount without engaging the services of an actuary to determine each retiree’s entitlement and the consultant was introduced to them.
“The Consultant discovered a lot of missing and wrong information in the data used to compute the previous Accrued Rights.
“The Consultant further discovered that the previous pension benefits were calculated using a Mandatory Retirement Age (MRA) assumption of 45 years instead of 60 years of age or 35 years of service as stipulated in the Civil Service Law.
“This assumption implies that workers will start receiving pension from the age of 45 years and during this period they will also be receiving salary from the government for which more than 90% of retirees falls into this category.
“This is wrong as you cannot be a pensioner and also an active employee of the same organization at the same time. This flaw resulted in an overstatement of the pension component of the Accrued Rights.
“So we brought this to their notice and told them that we cannot continue paying pensions calculated using a Mandatory Retirement Age of 45 and we need to correct any wrong information used in computing the previous benefits.
“They argued that some of their colleagues had received their pension using 45 years calculation, but we told them that because some persons received money that they were not entitled to does not mean that we will allow the illegality to continue and they agreed”.
He said both parties agreed to handover the consultant’s report to the Auditor General (Local Govt) for further auditing, and expressed surprise at the turn of events.
Ebonka said extant civil service law stipulated 60 years retirement age or 35 years of service, which should be the basis of computing pension benefits.
He clarified that the N40 billion was not in the coffers of Local Government Chairmen, but had been paid directly to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for disbursement by the Bureau of Pension.
The ALGON Chairman maintained that the allegation of misappropriation of the money was a complete misinformation and outright falsehood.
Ebonka said payment would commence after all issues had been resolved, adding that retirees with discrepancies/errors in their date of appointment, date of birth, Grade Level & Step must rectify such anomalies.
He said ALGON incurred an additional N2 billion payment to Local Government staff as it was discovered that they deserved more, including a five percent increase to retirees.