By Anietie Akpan, Calabar

Retired civil servants in Cross River State have threatened legal action against the state government over the non-payment of their gratuities put at over N35 billion.

The seniors, including permanent secretaries and directors, said arrangements had been concluded to drag the state government and the accountant general to National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NIC) in Calabar for allegedly refusing to pay them their gratuities since 2014, worsening their health condition.

Some retirees have not been paid since 2014, leading to several peaceful protests in the streets of Calabar and the governor’s office, yet nothing tangible was done.

On grounds of anonymity, some of the retired civil servants said the court case was the last resort since all entreaties and protests had failed.“We are waiting for our legal adviser and solicitor to commence action,” they added.

Claiming that some of their colleagues died without getting their gratuity, and other who fell sick were unable to raise money for treatment, they said “some staff in the accountant-general’s office are demanding gratification of N200,000 (each) from us to facilitate the payment of our gratuities.”

But the state’s Accountant General, Joseph Adie, told newsmen yesterday in Calabar that the state had paid gratuity up to 2013, but low allocation to the state from the federation account caused the delay in paying the remaining.

Adie, a chartered accountant, said: “The highest allocation that came to the state was N3 billion and, at times, the state would receive N1 billion.“I am sure you would be surprised that even 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 N200 million every month for payment of gratuities.”

On why some persons who retired between 2016 and 2017 had got their gratuities paid, while those in 2014, 2015 and 2016 were yet to be paid, Adie said it was an express order from the governor that some persons with critical health issues in that batch be paid.

His words, “Some people have health issues like spinal cord problem. In cases like this, I get 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 for money to come. But the truth is that such are considered as special cases.”

But he debunked the allegation of bribe against his office. “I want to assure Cross Riverians that nobody has 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 retirees and pensioners to begin to pay money for their gratuities or whatever. It is an act of wickedness.”

SOURCE: Guardian

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