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By Igbavboa Samuel Omokheoa

In fulfilling its promises of paying outstanding pension and gratuity of 29 years to pensioners in Edo State, the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration, through the Local Government Staff Pension Board has commenced the screening of pensioners from 1979 to the year 2008.

The five-day screening exercise spanning Monday 16th through Friday 20th October, 2023 cuts across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State, and is aimed at clearing the backlogs of gratuity payment of previous administrations in the State.The Head of Local Government Administration (HOLGA) and Permanent Secretary, Local Government Staff Pensions Board, Mrs. Osas-Ehigie Sandra, said that the screening exercise has brought smiles to the faces of pensioners, emphasising that the money received will ease the economic burden being faced by pensioners whose prayers have been answered, and expressed all thanks to Governor Godwin Obaseki.

She added that the Pensions Board in collaboration with the Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) will carry out a Skype screening exercise for those overseas in line with the digitalized Civil and Public Service practice recently launched. The HOLGA, who expressed her confidence in the desire of the State Government to meet the needs and welfare of retirees, assured pensioners that their gratuity payments will be made immediately, as the funds for the purpose have been released to the appropriate authority.

She assured that the Board is poised to request for the release of additional funds for the second batch of gratuity payment of pensioners from the year 2009 to the year the fund can cover, till all backlogs are cleared. According to the HOLGA, the plan is necessitated by the huge backlog of unpaid gratuities and the desire of the State Government to systematically offset all outstanding payments to pensioners.

In her remarks, the Chief Accountant, Local Government Staff Pensions Board, Mrs. Amegor Abimbola, stated that the backlog is a liability to the Government that will certainly be paid. She revealed that the screening exercise will cover over one 100 (one hundred) pensioners in the government database, and will also serve as an avenue for those not in the government database to be captured. She added that the screening exercise is very fast, as all that is needed to complete the process are the pensioner’s physical verification or revalidation, biometric capturing, and identification (Id) card.

Reacting, one of the pensioners, an Environmental Health Officer, who retired in 2008, Mr. Abode Imohiosen, expressed his joy after a successful screening. He recounted the pain and untold hardship he and his family had endured due to lack of finance. He applauded Governor Godwin Obaseki for fulfilling the promise he made to pensioners, and added that the hope of completing his house is now a reality.

In another reaction, Mrs. Osagiede Esther Enehikhare, also a pensioner who retired in 1993 as a Teacher at Payne Primary School, Benin City, was overwhelmed with joy and full of gratitude to the Governor. According to her, “I have been praying to collect my gratuity and share it among my children without them swearing an affidavit.”

She thanked Governor Godwin Obaseki for remembering the pensioners and prayed that he finishes well. She advised the Governor and all government officials not to allow anyone manipulate the due processes in the State so that Edo State can be compared to places like the United Kingdom where systems work.

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