Retirees to Drag CR Govt to Industrial Court Over Gratuity

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…Allege Officials in AG’s Office Demanding N200, 000 Bribe

By Magnus Effiong/Ita Williams
Top ranking retired civil servants in Cross River State, including permanent secretaries, have reportedly concluded arrangements to drag the State government and the Accountant General to National Industrial Court in Calabar for allegedly refusing to pay them their gratuities since 2014.

Our reporter gathered that some retirees have not been paid since 2014. This development has prompted many of them to be embarking on peaceful protests occasionally to Gov Ben Ayade’s office but the protests seem to have yielded no result.

Late last year, a twenty-six-year-old man, Mr. Joseph Odey, also staged a one-man protest with a placard, ‘Your Excellency please pay gratuity, my family is distressed,’

He had told Journalists that his late father put in 32 years of faithful service to the state and died as a school principal a few months before he was due for retirement. It could not be confirmed whether or not Odey’s plea received any attention from government.

On the planned litigation, a retired permanent secretary, who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity, said the court case was the last option since all entreaties and protests have failed, submitting that they were waiting for their legal adviser and solicitor to commence action.

He also alleged that some staff in the Accountant General’s office were demanding gratification of N200,000 to facilitate payment of gratuities.

But the Accountant General, Joseph Adie, in a chat with our reporter, described as untrue the allegations that officers in charge of processing documents were asking each retiree to cough out a whooping N200,000 before such papers could be processed.

He said, “well, I want to assure Cross Riverians that nobody have told me that there is demand on pensioners to pay anything before they get paid. My office here is not aware of such demand.

“It is a grievous matter to ask a retirees and pensioners to begin to pay monies for their gratuities or whatever. It is an act of wickedness. In a situation like this, I must confess to you that I am not aware of that type of demand from anywhere, and I will be the last person to be a partaker. As we speak, we have cleared 2013.”

Explaining what could have caused the delay in payment, Adie, a Chartered Accountant, said the highest allocation that came to the State was N3 billion and that at times, the State would receive as paltry as N1.1 billion and N1 billion respectively, but added that even States with highest allocations were also finding it hard to pay as at when due.

“I am sure you will be surprise that even those States that have the highest allocation owe pensions. Some of them are not even making effort to pay, but we have tried. We are paying, in fact at a point, we were setting aside N200million every month for payment of gratuities.

On why some persons who retired between 2016 and 2017 had gotten their gratuities paid while those in 2015 and 2016 were yet to be paid, the AG said it was an express order from the Governor of the State that some persons with critical health issues in that batch be paid.

“You know some people have health issues like spinal cord problem. Yes in cases like this, I get my special approval from the governor that such people be paid. They are only two on the line now but if he approves and there are no funds,  we still have to pray but the truth is that such are considered as special cases,” he stated.

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