By Kingston Obung
Palpable tension is again mounting between the government of Cross River State and Organised Labour in the state over claims by government that it had judiciously used the Paris Club Loan refunds to clear outstanding gratuities of retirees.
In a chat with Journalists yesterday, the state Chairman of TUC, Comrade Clarkson Otu, faulted such claims, saying: “The Paris refunds have not been used for what it was meant. Up till now, government has not paid gratuity for all the 2013 batch retirees. It is only about 200 retirees out of over 500 pensioners who were paid.”
He said: “A larger number is yet to be paid and what they have committed to that alone is not up to a billion naira. So, if you got N7.8 billion, N11.3 billion, N6.5 billion and you used just one billion, can you say you have applied that money for what it was meant? They have not.
“Our demand and request have not changed. We are not saying put the whole money but put a substantial part of it on what that money was meant for. If as we are speaking, you have put in 60 per cent, we know it will not cover everything and we know you have other areas of need but you try to balance but to say you will not do at all, that is what we will not accept.”
Otu said TUC also disapprove the decision of the state government to embark on another round of screening of retirees for payment of their entitlement even when the government already has an updated data of retirees that are entitled for payment of their gratuities.
“Are they not tired of screening? This government does not pity those old people. What are you screening? They have given you money, use the money and pay people their entitlement, that’s all. They screened all of them last year, and based on that screening, they are using that data to pay pension, why don’t you use it to pay gratuity?”
“Now we say pay, you want to screen again. That is why we stopped the screening. In any case we had a meeting with government last week and we gave them condition for accepting screening.”
Our reporter, who visited the state sub-treasury office of the Accountant-General to confirm the arrival of the anti-graft body, gathered that indeed the operatives were dispatched to interact with affected retirees so the agency could confirm whether or not the state government has indeed paid all pensioners and other retirees their gratuity and pensions as it claimed.
An operative, who pleaded to remain anonymous, told our reporters that they were for an on-the-spot fact investigation on the authenticity of petitions sent to the body that some pensioners were still being owed.