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Akwa Ibom groans under huge pension bills

The Akwa Ibom government says it is facing huge financial burden as pensions of retirees in the state civil service keep increasing monthly.
The State Commissioner for Finance, Mr Akan Okon, said this on Monday in Uyo while speaking with newsmen in his office.
The commissioner noted that following the lean financial situation in the state, modalities were being worked out to revive the earlier suspended Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) in the state.
Okon said that the reintroduction of CPS would guarantee sustainable pension administration.
He said that the state government had already constituted a committee to draw up efficient structural framework for the smooth implementation of CPS in the state public service.
He regretted that Akwa Ibom was the only state in the country not implementing the Pension Reform Act of 2014.
The commissioner explained that under the Act, provisions are made for states and local governments to adopt the contributory pension scheme.
He said that recent development with regards to inadequate funds affecting all states in the country had made it imperative to adopt the contributory pension scheme in the state.
Okon maintained that the CPS would guarantee better future for pensioners as it would facilitate quick payment of retirement benefits.
The commissioner lamented that payment of terminal benefits had been a major challenge to pensioners in the country as some had waited for years to get their entitlements.
Okon said that apart from forestalling misappropriation of pension funds, CPS would relieve the state government of huge outstanding pension liabilities.
He therefore appealed to workers in the state employ to embrace the scheme as soon as it is reintroduced.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Akwa Ibom government in 2013 pulled out of CPS following the absence of enabling law from the State House of Assembly.
NAN reports that though the state had hitherto implemented the scheme in its service, there were no pension administrators appointed and deductions over the years were refunded to the workers in 2015.
The refunds made by the immediate past administration of Gov. Godswill Akpabio were fraught with irregularities and some workers complained of omission of names and being short-changed.

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