Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Government has commenced the comprehensive biometric data capture of pensioners, in a move to develop a functional pension scheme in the state.
The biometric data capture for senior citizens takes place at the Ministry of Justice in Port Harcourt, for the mainstream pensioners.
Also, pensioners, who retired from the parastatals, are being captured at the Rivers State University.
Professionals in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are working round the clock to ensure easy capture of the retirees.
Head of Service, Mr. Rufus Godwins, said that Governor Nyesom Wike was working towards a functional pension scheme that would stand the test of time.
In his words, “The governor inherited six months pension arrears and settled the arrears. This is a public knowledge. Thereafter, he set out to address the pension issues that he inherited.
“The governor set up committees to address these issues. He has been implementing the reports. He has established the Rivers State Pension Board.
“There is a larger committee chaired by the Deputy Governor to make sure that every aspect of the pension issue dating back to 2009, under the Contributory Pension Scheme is resolved,”, Godwins stated.
The Head of Service noted that with efforts associated with the inherited pension issues, it is uncharitable for some misguided pensioners to attempt to malign the state government.
He added that there is no issue between the state governor and the pensioners, as they are aware of efforts in place by the administration to address pension concerns.
“There is no issue between the governor and the pensioners. But, there is an issue concerning the pension scheme he inherited and he is addressing it . All that is required is the support of those who are affected.
“To continue to protest is distracting us from the grave issue, which is to address the matter on ground”, he said.
The Head of Service noted that the development of a functional pension system is necessary to avoid a relapse in the future.
“All the pensioners are to be verified and subjected to a comprehensive data process. We will have a timeframe to capture the pensioners after which the door will be shut,” Godwins said.
Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of Service, Mr. Nnamdi Opu, said that despite the financial challenges, the Wike administration has been up-to-date in terms of the payment of monthly pension. He said the Government has paid up to August 2018, with nobody being owed.
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary in charge of Information and Communication Technology, Mr. Samuel Deresuma, said the equipment needed for a successful biometric capture exercise, were in place.
Some of the pensioners expressed gratitude to the state governor for his commitment to pension reforms and development of a sustainable pension scheme.
Festus Longjohn, a pensioner, who has been captured, noted that the biometric capture exercise will eliminate loss of government revenue.
Daisy Jack, another pensioner, thanked Governor Wike for the regular payment of pensions, saying that the biometric capture exercise would resolve existing challenges.
Also, Venerable Sam Dan said that the state government has handled the entire exercise professionally.