Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, has signed the 2023 Appropriation Bill of N389.37 billion into law as well as a bill on the state’s Contributory Pension Scheme for civil servants, council workers and political appointees.
Presenting the two bills for approval at Government House in Yenagoa, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Abraham Ingobere, explained that towards their retirement, the state and council workers will be required to contribute 8% of their salaries, while the state government and councils, as their employers, will contribute 10 per cent on their behalf.
He said political office holders are expected to contribute 10% of their salaries, while the state government and councils contribute 15 per cent on their behalf towards their retirement or disengagement from service.
On the 2023 Appropriation Law, Ingobere said the initial amount that was presented to the Assembly for consideration was N385.21 billion but after consultation with ministries, departments and agencies, the figure was increased by N4 billion, making it a total of N389.37 billion for the 2023 fiscal year.
Governor Diri said the Contributory Pension Law will put an end to the long delay and sad experience retirees are subjected to before receiving their gratuities and other entitlements.
The governor stressed that the pension scheme is backed by law because of its importance which he said will outlive his administration. He also said that the scheme covers all employees of the state and political office holders at both state and local government levels.
He further assured workers that the government will ensure that proper machinery was put in place to engage only reputable pension fund administrators to manage the funds.
He said: “Upon assumption of office, we discovered that some of our elder statesmen that had served our state meritoriously over the period had died without collecting their gratuity. Most of them have been owed in arrears to the tune of billions of naira.
“l sat with my team to fashion out a way to pay off these elder statesmen. What we are doing is a policy of government and we thought it needed to be backed by law. That was why we sent an Executive Bill to the House of Assembly to cater for our retirees.” He equally said the over N28 billion arrears would be paid off within the first tenure of his administration.
“When we assumed office (in February 2020), a minimum of N200 million monthly was made available for the payment of gratuities and we have been doing that faithfully. And in some months, we increased it to N500 million.
“Till date, an average of N862.6 million has been expended on pension issues. Also, N7.58 billion has been paid as gratuity and death benefits from February 2020 till date. However, in spite of these payments made, the huge liability of over N28 billion for outstanding gratuity and death benefits from 2007 till date still stands.
“Going forward, we will ensure the over N28 billion owed retirees is paid off within my first term in office.”