A former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, has narrated how an 80-year-old woman forced him to offset all outstanding pension and gratuity in the state before leaving office.
Obi was governor of Anambra State between 2007 to 2014 when the immediate past governor Willie Obiano succeeded him.
“Till the day I left office as governor, I owed nobody what is called gratuity. When I assumed office, they (Chris Ngige’s administration) were owing people N32bn,” he told Brekete Family, a popular Abuja radio programme on Wednesday.
In 2007, the state had an outstanding pension and gratuity of around N35bn.
By November 2013, Obi paid the sum of N30bn and cleared the rest in subsequent months before handing over in 2014.
“When I was governor, I went to church every Sunday morning. One day I was in the church and an 80-year-old woman asked me to leave the church. She told me to stop praying and leave,” Obi narrated.
Obi added, “The old woman, Mrs Ndibe, came and carried my bag asking me to leave. She told me that God will not answer my prayer until I pay her gratuity and pension.
“I followed the woman to her house and what she told me made me decide to clear the debts. So when I left, we did not owe gratuity, we did not owe pension. We did not owe salary and I want you to go and verify that. No contractor that did his work was owed. No supplier that did justice to his work was owed.”
In Nigeria, pension payment has become a major issue for state governments with many of them owing liabilities, according to the National Pensions Commission.
Obi said, “The Police are not the only ones surveying this. It is everywhere. When you see the pain people go through in serving their country, it is painful. We are supposed to be helping them enjoy it.
“The problem with pensions affects everybody. This thing needs to be reorganised. We need to do it better. Even the little amount, the pensioners are not paid. The country is supposed to have cleared its backlogs. These are people in their old age with less opportunity.”
Obi said leaders keep denying pensioners their rights and entitlements because of the mass ignorance among Nigerians.
He said, “If you cannot pay salaries, you can not pay gratuity, you go home. It is simple because you receive your salary. We need to change. You can’t be owing people and you go about with your family.”