Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State on Tuesday said he asked the immediate past Head of Service of the State, Mr. Jerry Obazele, to proceed on compulsory retirement because of gross negligence.
Speaking during the swearing-in of the state’s New Head of Service, Mrs. Gladys Osaretin Idahor, at the Government House, Benin City, Oshiomhole said “I am a defender of jobs. I believe experience is a value to be celebrated, not to be punished. But I have had to arrive at the painful conclusion that Obazele had to be relieved of his services because not only did he fail to provide leadership, he also conducted himself in a way that would have led me to approve a fraudulent claim for pensioners.
“He was appointed according to my judgment and I accept responsibility for my poor sense of judgment. But I also have the courage to correct my mistakes once I discovered it was a mistake.
“The responsibility of a Head of Service is to be a superintendent over the civil service. There are many of our senior citizens who had retired from service from as far back as 1999, some even under the military and by the time I assumed office, many of these senior citizens had not received their gratuity for over a period of 12 to 13 years. The situation was compounded by the thousands of workers that were retrenched by a former PDP government between 2000 and 2001 and all of those people were not paid their gratuity.
“There is no worst crime to a working man or woman than to deny him his deferred wage which we call gratuity which is meant to be paid at the point of disengagement so he can use the money to establish and face the rigors and reality of retirement.
“We tried to deal with this problem from inception. First, I gave a standing instruction to the Accountant General that pensioners must be paid exactly the same day as the current civil servants. It is not that we pay them if there is something left because at the end of the day, nothing will be left when you pay for every other thing. You must give priority accordingly.
“Two months ago, I called the Head of Service and I said, I am looking forward to the end of my tenure. When I say I want to finish strong and finish well, it is not only in the area of physical infrastructure, but I also want to deal with the social sector. I want to look for money and pay a chunk of money to these pensioners so that we can reduce the waiting time.
“So I asked him, do you have the numbers and the cost and he said yes and I told him, let me have the documents. He produced a document which detailed the number of pensioners year-by-year and the amount required year by year.
“No more gratuity based on who you know, it is batch by batch depending on when you retired. So I saw from the records that Obazele gave me that we have paid up to 2010. We have paid many people who retired in 2010 and according to the document, we had 130 persons who retired in 2010 who have not been paid and we had some other persons in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
“These numbers were stated clearly and he also stated clearly to me, how much we required to pay for each year. For 2010, the figure was N175 million to settle the 130 persons. I said, OK, you let me have the names of these 130 persons for 2010 and the names of those who retired in 2011 through 2014 and the amount. The date of the retirement, the day of employment, the total number of years served which is the basis of calculating gratuity”.