ONE challenge that has greatly embarrassed governments in Nigeria is the issue of non-payment of pensions as and when due to retirees. From the Federal Government to local government levels, the issue of senior citizens of the country not getting their benefits after putting in thirty five (35) years in serving the nation in no little ways, has continued to trouble many well- meaning individuals.
When one hears about physical verification of pensioners, one does not bother to visit the venue of such exercise if one is lily-livered because, one may see elders, grandfathers in pitiable states trying to prove that they are still alive and should continue to receive their pensions.
It is no longer news that pensioners, most times, take to the street to protest non-payment of their entitlements and no sensitive government should allow such to continue. Pensioners should be treated with utmost respect, and if the government must do verifications, it should be done for such pensioners to still have their dignity intact. It is appalling for someone who has put in all that he has got in the service of his fatherland only to collapse and possibly, meet his death while undergoing a verification exercise. To be modest, such should not be heard of in this digital era.
This is the reason people with the mindset of rendering service, people who have track records of putting the interest of the people first before personal interest, experienced people with proven capacity, not people who play to the gallery, should be put in positions of authority.
In Delta, most of the people can beat their chests and say that they have got it right by voting for the ticket of Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and Sir Monday Onyeme, FCA. While Governor Oborevwori can be described as an activist who actively protected the interest of his people, a successful businessman and a politician, Sir Monday Onyeme can be described as a thoroughbred technocrat, a civil servant, and an Accountant who can comfortably sit in an office for a minimum of eight hours everyday working without complaining.
With Governor Oborevwori seeing Sir Monday Onyeme as a capable hand, he finds it easy to assign some responsibilities to his deputy; so, last week, some set of pensioners came to visit the Deputy Governor in his office located within the precincts of the Government House, Asaba. Deputy Governor Monday Onyeme, as a civil servant who found himself in politics, will start enjoying his pension when he clocks 60 years of age; so, it did not come as a surprise when we heard that he was going to meet with pensioners who visited him under the aegis of Association Of Contributory Pensions Retirees, Delta State, led by Comrade Okproma Joseph.
At that meeting, the pensioners, who spoke through the Vice Chairman of the Association, Mr Anthony Osanekwu, said that the retirees were faced with several challenges that included alleged selective payments by the State Bureau of Pensions, delays in payments to retirees after government had released funds, and the failure to pay bulk sum to retirees on payment of the harmonization, among others.
Naturally, the Deputy Governor was very concerned and he informed the pensioners that the Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori came prepared for good governance and anything that affects any Deltan is of great interest to him and as such, the complaints of the pensioners would be looked into for speedy response.
Sir Onyeme, however, observed that there were several areas that require proper clarifications and urged the retirees to be specific in their requests to enable the state government do the right thing.
He said, “I want thank you for your very peaceful disposition; I want to thank you for being the elders that you are and I want to assure you that this government is a listening government. It is a government that is people-oriented and whatever we think we can do as a government to alleviate the suffering of our citizens, we will gladly do.”
Making reference to the fact that the issue of pension and how it is handled was inherited by Governor Oborevwori’s administration, Sir Onyeme emphasized, “This government, led by Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, is not a government that came in to condemn what the previous governments have done for our people; we are a government that believes in continuity and so, all the projects and policies of the previous governments that we inherited, we are completing them.
“We have started quite a few new projects; our concentration so far, is on completion of projects that are ongoing, projects that we inherited from previous administrations in our state.”
Naturally, the Office of the Deputy Governor of Delta State is a very busy one based on the governor’s belief that for the M.O.R.E. Agenda to be delivered to the satisfaction of all Deltans, all hands must be on deck.
So, last Sunday, the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Sir Onyeme, started his weekly activities by visiting the widow of Major Babs Agali (rtd), Dr (Mrs) Nnenna Agali, in Benin City, Edo State. He had, the previous day, visited the extended family of the deceased at his home town, Ogume, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State.
Major Agali, until his death, was a great pillar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State and was also in charge of the security architecture of the party during elections at Ndokwa West Local Government Area. So, his death at the age of 70 years after a brief illness, came as a surprise to a lot of persons, especially, members of the PDP.
The visit of Onyeme to the families of Agali both in Ogume and in Benin City, in no small way, shows that members of the PDP in the state value their members, living or dead. Ordinarily, the Deputy Governor could have waited for the family of the deceased to release the burial programme of Agali before sending a delegation to represent him at the burial ceremony or attend the burial but democracy is in practice in Delta State where those in authority identify with the electorate, feel the pains of the electorate and assist in easing their burden.
That visit of Sir Onyeme to the Agalis, also shows that the Deputy Governor is a realistic grassroot politician who has the stamina to identify with the people. That Sunday, morning, the Deputy Governor left Asaba for Sapele, where he joined Governor Sheriff Oborevwori and former Governor Ifeanyi Okowa at the 60th birthday Thanksgiving Service of the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olorogun Kingsley Esiso, at Winners’ Chapel, Sapele.
Last week had a lot to do with the workforce as the Deputy Governor, also represented Governor Sheriff Oborevwori at the opening ceremony of a one-day workshop for labour leaders in the state.
Governor Oborevwori, at that workshop which was organised by the Office of Labour Relations and SERVICOM in Asaba, Delta State, reeled out what his administration was doing for the benefits of Deltans.
“Let me appreciate the organisers of this event, the Office of the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Labour Relations and SERVICOM, for this timely and laudable initiative. It is timely and most appropriate, given our contemporary national economic experience.
“When we talk about the organised labour, we talk about umbrella bodies of all workers in all sectors of the economy and they are largely grouped into two, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). As such, in this hall today, we have the leadership and or representatives of all the workers in Delta State. This is simply amazing and it shows that all hands must be on deck for us to successfully deliver the M.O.R.E. Agenda for the advancement of our great state, Delta.
“We are aware of the fact that what is encapsulated in the M.O.R.E. Agenda of my administration are, Meaningful Development, which means that we shall not only concentrate on the provision of infrastructure that will be of benefits to all of us as Deltans, but will also, include human capital development to enable us harness our potentials and improve on ourselves.
“Also, the “O” in the M.O.R.E. Agenda is, Opportunities for All. This is the reason we are here today, to brainstorm and agree to make our contributions through our jobs, our professions; we should not only think about our welfare alone but we should have a broader mindset so that our actions should be of enhanced benefit to humanity. This is the best way to go if we must be comfortable in our place of work, our homes and wherever we find ourselves. As a government, we shall continue to encourage Deltans to put in their best in their jobs and encourage our people to excel in their chosen fields of life. I have promised Deltans that I will run an open, transparent and responsive government predicated on prosperity, where everybody has a sense of belonging, and by the grace of God, I will not deviate from that promise. I appeal to you all to key into this for us to succeed as a people. In your offices or wherever you find yourselves, you must be transparent for you to earn the trust of the people. You must not think about yourself alone but what your action or inaction will have on the generality of the people. This issue should always guide you so that you put the interest of the people first before all else.
“Realistic Reforms: This gathering is part of activities to ensure that we imbibe the right attitude towards getting the best for our people. The M.O.R.E. Agenda of my administration is about you; so, the reforms that will be continuously implemented by my administration will be impactful to all Deltans and this brings us to the “E” in the M.O.R.E. Agenda which is simply, Enhanced Peace and Security. This is very crucial to the success story of everything that we are doing as a government.
“It is a collective responsibility for us to have a peaceful and secure society. If you are peaceful and abhor criminal activities and you know who is involved in criminal activities but fail to report such person to security agencies, in the long run, you may be a victim of such a criminal. So, making our society, our state, peaceful and secure is a collective responsibility.
“So far, we thank God that Delta is relatively peaceful and we hope to sustain it and you all should join in our initiatives to make the state the most peaceful in the country. With such, it will be the investors’ destination of the world and more job opportunities will be created and your unions will have more members.
“I am happy with the theme for this seminar, ‘Enhancing The Relationship Between Government and Organised Labour For Effective Service Delivery and Advancement of the MORE Agenda.’
“I am aware that experts have been carefully selected to deliver lectures at this seminar, it is based on that that I will urge you all to pay attention to what they will say. But beyond that, whatever you will learn at this seminar will be useless if you do not put it to practice; so, whatever you are taught, let it impact on your behaviour and go further to make your members imbibe the right attitude either in their offices, in their place of work or generally, wherever they find themselves.
“My administration will listen more and do more; so, be assured that we shall continue to place high priority on the welfare of workers, implement staff-friendly policies and you should also, reciprocate such by bringing out your best for us to get it right as a people,” the governor said.
And, last Friday, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori stated that his administration would continue to offer a hand of fellowship to various partners of the European Union(EU) working in the oil-rich region to “raise a new generation of leaders and thinkers that will change the narrative in the Niger Delta region.”
The governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Sir Monday Onyeme, spoke at the official launch of the European Union (EU) funded project, “A Community-Centered Approach to Transforming Criminality and Violence in the Niger Delta,” the event took place at Government House, Asaba.
He said, “This project is in tandem with our goal of enhanced peace and security through youth engagement and empowerment, creation of job opportunities through infrastructural renewal, and a new policy thrust in our education system that prioritizes skills acquisition.
“One of the triggers of unrest and instability in any society is financial exclusion, lack of social cohesion and the absence of shared values.
“The European Union deserves applause for making their resources available to us in this regard. I must thank them for their interest and willingness to invest in 24 communities in Delta State, spread across 12 local government areas. This is a huge human capital development effort, and it is my expectation that those who will be entrusted with managing the different aspects of the programme will do their job with utmost zeal, dedication and integrity.
“I am persuaded that the ‘bottom-up, inclusive and community-centred approach’ of this project, will inspire hope in our people, foster behavioural changes, and give them a sense of belonging. It is, therefore, incumbent on the project managers to display the highest levels of fairness, transparency, and accountability in the discharge of their duties.”
With the Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and Sir Monday Onyeme, FCA, on the saddle of government in Delta State, the state is certainly in safe hands, all that we are required to do as Deltans, is for us to engage in positive activities, encourage government to succeed in its programmes and policies bearing in mind that at the end of the day, we shall be greater beneficiaries of such programmes and policies.
The author, Comrade Fidelis Egugbo, is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Delta State on Media.