With a near bloating civil service of over 50,000 workforce and a growing army of pensioners, Rivers State appears to be far from tackling its pensions issue that had persisted since 2007, going by recent revelations on the state’s contributory pension scheme (CPS) bill.
The new bill, just accented into law by Governor Nyesom Wike, aims at a comprehensive capture of all pensioners in the state, according to Rufus Godwins, head of service in the state.
“We have placed over 800 of them (pensioners) on the payroll; and we have started paying them. The window for biometric capture is open; and we shall continue the process for the purpose of payment,” Godwins said.
He said that 800 pensioners under the contributary pension scheme have completed their biometrics, and have been paid, adding that further biometric capture of other pensioners under the CPS has been scheduled by the state government in line with the directive of the governor.
Pensions payment in Rivers, like in many of Nigeria’s sub-nationals, has been a thorny issue, with most of the affected retired workers going for months of unpaid pensions. The accumulated arrears run into several tens of billions of naira. The immediate past Chibuike Amaechi administration enacted a contributary pensions law to net-in virtually all the state’s retirees. But that fell into murky waters, as many affected ones cried that they were excluded. Governor Wike came up with a reformed scheme since 2016. But till date, several thousands of pensioners are yet to be captured in the new CPS, a situation some economic analysts have criticized, describing it as further creating more problems than it aimed to correct the old system.
But Governor Wike, after signing the new bill (Rivers State Pension Reform Law No 4 of 2019), said he has fulfilled his pledge, to correct the lingering pension issue, as it marks the commencement of payment of pensioners under a contributory pension scheme.
“The Rivers State Pension Reform Law (No 4 of 2019) will help in resolving the challenges generated by the Contributory Pension scheme. The State Government is committed to ensuring that civil servants and pensioners are catered for, with the challenges they faced completely addressed,” he said.
The head of service said, by initiating the amendment of the State Pension Law, Governor Wike set out to comprehensively tackle the challenges he inherited under the CPS from the immediate past Amaechi administration in the state.