Senator Ewhrudjakpo stated this while granting audience to the leadership of the Local Government Wing of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), in Government House, Yenagoa.
He pointed out that although the payment of gratuities to retired Local Government workers was the responsibility of the councils, the State Government would play a supportive role within the limits of available resources.
According to the Deputy Governor, the State Government is already committing hundreds of millions to support the eight councils monthly, to enable them to meet their statutory financial obligations.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo, who assured the people of the present administration’s determination to reposition the Local Government system for more efficiency, however, urged the various councils to demonstrate greater commitment towards the liquidation of their gratuity and pension liabilities.
Commenting on the present composition of the Local Government Pensions Board, Ewhrudjakpo said his office would carefully examine the existing law and take appropriate steps, as may be required, to address the alleged anomalies in the board’s membership.
Responding to the issue of 15 percent remittance from the councils’ monthly revenue for gratuity payments, he promised that the government would look into the matter and ensure compliance with existing financial regulations.
His words: “The issue of gratuity you raised is the responsibility of the Local Governments. And so, they have the load to carry. He who owns the load puts in more energy raising the load.
“I’ve been thinking of how we can commit the State Government to set aside some funds monthly. I’m thinking that if we can get the state to give, let’s say N50m, then we can get the rest from the Local Government contributions.
“You are aware of the effort we have been making since we assumed office to make our Local Governments more responsive and responsible. And thankfully, they are assuming that status.
“We are going to look within available resources to see what we can get from the Local Government system and match it with what will come from the state. And then make it a regular pool of funds to enable us pay the Local Government gratuities.
“We are going to make that our next task. So, we are going to meet with the regular stakeholders, including the Local Government Councils, the Ministry of Local Government and the Commissioner for Finance because he needs to advise the Governor on what to do.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the Local Government Wing of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners in the state, Chief Shell Alafa, prayed the State Government to come to the aid of the Local Government retirees in respect of gratuity payment.
Chief Alafa, who thanked the Deputy Governor for always identifying with the plight of workers, pleaded with the government to correct some alleged anomalies in the present membership of the Local Government Pensions Board.
He also appealed for enforcement of a 15 percent remittance by the Joint Account Allocation Committee, JAAC, from the councils’ total income monthly, as provided by law to offset pension and gratuity for their members