By Obong Kingsley
Akwa Ibom State pensioners, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), have poured encomiums to the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, for his concern about workers’ welfare in the state especially that of the pensioners.
They gave the eulogy during the 2017 National Pensioners’ Day celebration and grand reception for Governor Emmanuel with the theme “Pensioners Edaka Eda”, held at the Ibom Hall Grounds, Uyo on Monday.
The epoch making event, which featured dedication of 28,000 pensioners to the Governor, witnessed the pensioners declaring their willingness and readiness to work and support the Udom Emmanuel led administration.
A welcome address presented by the Akwa Ibom State Council Chairman of NUP, Obong E. D. Ekpo (JP), appreciated Governor Emmanuel for his ability to manage the lean resources available, hence bringing the impact of recession to its minimal in the state compared to what is obtainable in other states of the federation.
According to him, “Akwa Ibom State pensioners celebrate the 2017 National Pensioners’ Day along with other 36 states of the federation including Abuja. It is a day of reflection on what is on within the state and also in other states of the federation.
“During the period of reflection and comparison, Akwa Ibom pensioners have reason to thank God for the kind of Governor He gave to us. Observation shows that Akwa Ibom workers including pensioners are not worst off compared to their counterparts in other states of the federation.
“On this note, the union decided to invite His Excellency, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, on this unique day to say thank you to him for his efforts so far. We cherish and appreciate your dynamic and financial management style”.
In his response, Governor Udom Emmanuel, who was unavoidably absent due to official engagements outside the state, and was ably represented by the Head of Civil Service, Mrs Ekereobong Akpan, thanked the pensioners for the great show of love to receive him in spite of lies a section of the press may have fed the people.
Governor Emmanuel reminded the pensioners that his first step of action upon assumption of office in 2015 was to offset backlog of pension arrears and gratuities.
“Upon my inauguration on 29 May, 2015, the first step of action I performed was to authorise the payment of a 10-year backlog of pensions and gratuities of our workers dating back from 2001 to 2011, a gesture which was highly appreciated by the state organised labour who wrote letters to thank me for such a clear display and concern for the welfare of pensioners.
“Let me thank the state organised labour for the show of understanding and good working relationship they have showed and let me state categorically that we are paying pensions and will continue to pay. In November, we paid salaries without receiving our monthly allocations from the federal account.
“The few who are yet to receive have one issue or the other. Pension arrears kill any government. We discovered that most people moved from government’s integrated payroll to pension’s payroll. We are following due process. After collecting your blue papers, don’t go home and relax. Go and register in the sub-treasury of your choice for documentation so that every other thing will follow suit.”
Earlier, the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Akwa Ibom Chapter, Rev (Dr) Ndueso Ekwere, in his message from the book of Genesis 26:16-22, admonished the pensioners to “Arise and Secure Your Rehoboth”.
He charged them not to be tired despite the fact that they are retired, saying “Move forward, for Rehoboth is in front of you. Government will be your Rehoboth because you are very important factor of the land. Government will do all it can to make sure you are provided for, but don’t completely rely on the government.
“Try and occupy yourselves in whatever way you can to sustain your family. You can go into farming, small scale business, etc. Just do something and God will make that place to become a Rehoboth (fruitful).”
Chairman of the occasion, Chairman, Civil Service Commission, Elder Sunny I. Akpadiaha, in his speech, enjoined the pensioners to see the celebration as a day for sober reflection and cast their minds back to the history of NUP.
In his word, “I want us to cast our minds back to the history and formation of NUP which was established following the restructuring of Labour Unions in 1977, and today, the NUP is the umbrella organisation for all civilian pensioners nationwide.
“Therefore, I want to enjoin you that as you are celebrating, look back. This should be a moment of sober reflection on the achievement so far recorded. As a union, you have a sacred duty to fight for the welfare of your members, advance the education and training of your members, provide for the benefit and offer assistance to your members, to protect and advance socioeconomic and cultural interest of the community in general and your members in particular.
“Even though you have retired, some of you are still very active. The experiences you acquired in your 35 years in public service is such that can’t be purchased in the market. Therefore, you are a reservoir of experience, intelligence and knowledge. Use the experiences and knowledge and see yourselves as tink-tanks so that you can always advise the government on policy matters affecting the community, state your members.
“The challenge you may be having is not peculiar to only Akwa Ibom State. There are other states that owe pensions for many years yet the governors are purchasing vehicles worth millions of naira to those who never put in any service to the state. The good news is that the story is different in Akwa Ibom State”.
Elder Akpadiaha assured the pensioners that in no distant time, all pension arrears will be paid, and enjoined them to continue to give the same amount of cooperation that they have been giving to the present administration so that at the end of the day, all the parties involved will have cause for celebration.
Solidarity and goodwill messages from various segments of the union ranging from Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Head of Civil Service, Accountant General, etc, also gave kudos to the Governor for his continuous determination to harmonise pensions and make indebtedness in the area of pension arrears and gratuities things of the past in the state.
Highpoint of the event was the symbolic presentation of portrait of the Governor, and dedication of over 28,000 pensioners in Akwa Ibom State to Governor Udom Emmanuel for knowledge and utilisation of their services through the 31 branches in the state, three Senatorial Districts of retired primary school teachers and the state Women Wing of Local Government Pensioners.
The occasion was also graced by His Royal Majesty, Edidem (Dr) Ntoeng Udo Effiong Akpan JP, Paramount Ruler of Ini LGA and Chairman, Council of Traditional Rulers; Obong Cosmos M. Essien (JP), Secretary, NUP; Obong J. Nkanta, State Trustee, NUP; Mr Linus Eyo Etim, State Auditor, NUP; Apostle Ime Udoh (JP), State PRO, NUP; Elder Comrade Ntiedo Ema, Chairman, Central Planning Committee; Obonganwan Usoro, Chairman, Women Committee and other dignitaries to many to mention.