Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, said inability of most state governments to operate the contributory pensions scheme in the country was due to huge financial burden inherited under the scheme by them.
Okowa made this known on Sunday at the third session of the 8th Synod of Ughelli Diocese of Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion held at Bishop Agori-Iwe Memorial Church, Ughelli.
He said that the financial burden forced 18 state governments out of 26 that enlisted on the scheme to withdraw, leaving only eight state governments, including Delta, remaining in it.
The governor explained that aside other intricacies, the major challenge that made the states to withdraw and others never enrolled in the scheme was the huge backlog running into billions of naira.
He stated that in Delta, his administration inherited about N100 billion unpaid pensions under the scheme, but disclosed that it was being defrayed by the government.
He said that the state government was up-to-date with payment of pensioners in the old scheme, disclosing that they were paid same time every month with public servants in the state.
Okowa pointed out that the government was aware of the plight of the pensioners and wished that he had solutions to the challenges.
“We have two types of pensions, the old pension scheme and the contributory pension scheme.
“Those on the old pension scheme are paid regularly as we pay salaries, but there is a big challenge with those on the contributory pension scheme.
“It is a good scheme but it will take a very long time to solve the issues associated with it.
“For instance, if somebody had done 15 years before joining the contributory pension scheme, it provides that the government must contribute for those years and it runs into billions of naira.
“Out of 36 states in the country only 26 states embraced the scheme, but as at today, only eight states are contributing to the scheme and the rest are no longer in the scheme because it is extremely expensive.
“When I assumed office in 2015, what Delta was owing was over N100 billion and unfortunately the state government was paying the contribution of the workers.
“The state government entered into the scheme in 2007 and up to 2015 no money was paid for past services amounting to over N100 billion.
“We have been paying monthly but that money isn’t enough; it is an unfortunate incident because others are no longer part of the scheme because they can no longer afford it.
“I have paid a few billions but it’s a far cry from the over N100 billion we are owing.
“It is something we are committed to and I will continue to do the best that we can and by the time we are able to pay the accruals it will no longer be a burden to subsequent governments,” he said.
On security, Okowa said it was a tough issue in Nigeria currently, but assured that he would continue to do his best to secure Deltans.
“Thank God that there has been a change of guard at the federal level with regards to heads of security agencies and I believe it will bring a new strategy and solution to the current security challenges bedeviling the nation,” he said.
He charged every Nigerian to support the state and Federal Government with prayer to address insecurity and other challenges.
On his part, Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, who attended the service, joined Governor Okowa in calling for prayers to address insecurity in the nation.
He said that the country was in perilous times, adding that it could get worse with the death of Chadian President, a strong ally in the fight against insurgency.
“These are perilous times and it could become worse before it gets better.
“There is a likelihood of influx of illegal arms and more insurgents into the country with the death of the Chadian President, Idris Derby, who did his best to secure the Nigerian-Chadian borders.
“Security is a collective responsibility and not that of government alone; I therefore call on the Church to continue to preach those things that will bring love and unite Nigerians rather than those things that will divide the country further,” Omo-Agege stated.
Earlier in a sermon, Rt. Rev’d Johnson Ekwe, Bishop of Niger West Diocese of the Anglican Communion, commended Governor Okowa for his meekness and commitment to the course of humanity.
The Bishop who spoke on the theme: “We are Christ fragrance unto God: A critical examination of the Christian life,” urged Christians to live a pleasant life, like a sweet smelling fragrance rising up to God.
He said a true Christian must possess good character of humility, meekness and sacrifice which Christ epitomized.
“Politicians and those in authority must live a selfless life to serve the interest of the people they are leading,” the cleric said.