Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Saturday said that his administration in the past six months had steadily expended N700 million monthly on payment of pensions.
Ortom offered the explanation against the backdrop of the protest by some aggrieved pensioners on Wednesday who took to the streets of Makurdi while they accused the state government of being insensitive to their plights over unpaid pensions.
The governor however told journalists shortly after his return from Abuja that a total of N700 million was being paid to the different categories of pensioners in the state every month.
He further explained that the amount covered the N400million and N300milllion paid monthly to the State and Local Government pensioners respectively.
He said that though the release of the funds affects payment of overheads and other logistics in some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, it had to be sustained in order to address the plight of the senior citizens who served the state meritoriously and retired.
Ortom added that the release of N700 million monthly was a result of an agreement between government and Pension union leaders in the state, stressing that the cause of the recent protests by pensioners despite the subsisting agreement was unfortunate and would be investigated.
He reiterated that his administration inherited over N70billion arrears of pensions and gratuities of retirees in the state but that through relentless efforts, his government had reduced the amount to less than N35b so far.
The governor said already, over N1.5billiion had been saved in the PENCOM account by the Benue State government and that when the amount reaches N3billion threshold, funds would be accessed from PENCOM to clear arrears of Pensions and gratuities of retirees.
Ortom maintained that the domestication of the PENCOM law by his administration was the best approach to ensure a lasting solution to payment of pensions and gratuities of retirees in the state.