By Thompson ABISOLA
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo said N5billion out of the N12.6 billion Paris Club debt refund will be used for the payment of pension arrears in the state.
Okorocha will also spend N9billion for the payment of salaries, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Sam Owuemeodo.
The shortfall of N1.4billion will be sourced, Okorocha said, without indicating whether it will be borrowed.
Imo is second after Delta in the monthly arrears owed pensioners. While Imo owes 34 months, Delta is ahead with 36 months, according to a report recently by BudgIT.
Okorocha also failed to state how many months of the pension arrears will be cleared with the N5billion. In 2017, the state had estimated its monthly bill at N1.4 billion as it bemoaned the burden of meeting up with its payment.
The Okorocha government had employed several tactics to reduce the burden, by for instance paying 40 per cent of the pension. But the pensioners went to court and the court overruled the government. The government also embarked on the verification of the pensioners, using biometrics. In August last year, the verification led to the arrest of 30 workers in the state Pension Board, caught falsifying cheques and writing cheques for ghost pensioners.
For the state workers, the Okorocha administration said it would pay the October and November salaries simultaneously, with N2billion already set aside for the purpose.
Okorocha’s statement on Sunday was not all about pensions and salaries, as he also seized the moment to appeal to the National working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress, led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to submit the name of Mr Uche Nwosu to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the winner of the APC governorship primaries in the state.
Okorocha said upholding Nwosu’s candidacy will “protect the high integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari and the integrity of the Party.”
He added that Nwosu remains the “only hope” for the state, adding that the candidates of other parties would spell doom for the state.
“For some time now, I have been in Abuja fighting for the soul of Imo State from possible kidnap and subsequent destruction by Political thieves.
“The only hope left for Imo State now is for Uche Nwosu to emerge as a candidate, if not there will be total economic catastrophe when I leave as governor.
“Though they have spoken falsely and badly about our candidate, nobody can say that he was a fraudster in Lagos or that he was an armed robber in Benin or an arrogant man or a criminal. “They have actually nothing to say about him except that he is my son-in-law,” the release read.