One of the putrid stench from the many heaps of governance rots and decay that Rochas Okorocha will be passing over to Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha to inherit is the unpaid N57billion Pension Arrears of our retired senior citizens.
Make no mistake about it, from May 30, 2019, the Senior Citizens will converge in Owerri to commence fresh agitations for payments of their rights and monies.
Imo state, just like Abia state is one of the two states in the South East of Nigeria with huge unpaid pension liabilities. Huge pension liabilities that stretches over 8 years and have resulted to untimely death of some of our retired senior citizens. It is very disheartening and tragic, how this decay has been allowed to fester and deepen for 94 months.
Interestingly, one of the adhoc measures that President Buhari provided to help offset a significant part of this huge liabilities, the Bailout funds of over N26billion that was released to the current Imo state government is currently a subject of criminal investigation by EFCC and ICPC.
The most tragic situation that stares Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha and our pensioners in the face today is that we do not even have reliable, credible and accurate record/data of the state pension liabilities. The whole mess has become an endless conundrum and hydra-headed monster that have defied all analogous and corruption infested solutions thrown at it by the current Imo state government.
Confidential information from bankers and those in the know in places of power in Imo state show clearly that the twin evils of sleaze and corruption are the major clog on the wheel to resolving sustainably this pension logjam.
For whatever reasons best known to it, the Rochas Government and those before it, refused to embrace the novel Contributory Reformed Pension Acts and domesticate in Imo state. Today, what we have is a convoluted and messed up system, with backlog of estimated pension arrears of over N57billion that will require scientific /forensic financial engineering skills to fix.
SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS AND WAYS OUT
In the course of our research works, we identified amongst others, two major challenges militating against the sustainable and successful resolutions of this seemingly intractable problem.
Chief amongst these challenges, are the entrenched “cabal”-RABIDLY CORRUPT CIVIL SERVANTS, MASQUERADING AS UNIONISTS, who have stubbornly refused any attempt by concerned stakeholders to clean up and straighten the Imo State Pension scheme to ensure transparency in the system.
For over 94 months the current government could not fix this problem. 94 months is more than adequate time for any serious, strong willed, corruption loathing and knowledgeable governor to have provided clear direction and in fact slayed the monster of pension arrears in the state by fully implementing the contributory pension scheme across the whole public workforce and establishing a commission to stop future rots.
The entrenched interests in the system, in the total absence of any responsible/responsive leadership in Imo state over the last 94 months, working with their active collaborators even in the private sector, including the banks/ bankers have continued to destroy the system.
The above is without prejudice to some of the very honest and hardworking men and women in the civil service, who will be glad to see an end to the activities of these monsters.
The Second major challenge is the seemingly lack of that strong/stubborn political will by the outgoing governor, and absence of deeply knowledgeable, experienced, focused, honest, and passionately creative financial engineers and forensic investigators, amongst the motley crowd of political aides, who would have assisted the governor with clear cut sustainable solutions to slay this monsters.
Then, we have the corrupt government officials too, who diverted even the adhoc bailout funds provided by Buhari to the state. Some of these government functionaries accused of diverting the bailout funds are still prancing about without being prosecuted.
To tackle the first monster, the incoming government of Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha shall within the first 30 days in office commence / irreversibly conduct an independent / painstaking forensic/biometric verification/audit of the actual staff strength of the Imo state civil service-This should be non-negotiable. The current Imo personnel cost and overhead expenditure of N4.8billion per month and N57billion per annum is outrageous.
Comprehensive Forensic Personnel Audit that will match job functions of each of the personnel to the needs of the state civil service. This Forensic audit must date back to the last 8 -16years. NO ADHOC /SLAP ON THE WRIST MEASURES. This exercise will also track and confirm all legitimate pension arrears still in the system. This audit must be conducted by a reputable consultancy outfit, whose remunerations shall be attached to clearly marked out performance /success matrix/parameters.
The consultants working with deeply knowledgeable and skilful aides of the incoming government must also have capacity to design, structure and put in place an architecture that will ensure that Imo state immediately transit from the current Defined Benefits (DB) scheme (Pay as you go) to the Contributory Pension scheme.
They must help the state to amend and implement the state pension bill working with the Imo state house of Assembly in line with the Reformed Pension Act of 2004 amended. The Act will give birth to a lean and efficiently staffed Imo state Pension Commission. This proposed commission, shall have four specialized divisions –Technical, Administration, Inspectorate and Finance & Investment. Its staffing must be top notch and devoid of cronyism.
This new commission shall take over the administration of Pension schemes in the state, partnering with the licensed PFAs/PFC and Deposit Money Banks in Nigeria.
The outcome of the comprehensive and forensic audit of all outstanding pension arrears in the state, will provide the state with a true picture of what her past pension liabilities are, what it maybe from the present going into the next ten years and how those arrears and potential liabilities can be scientifically and sustainably tackled/ mitigated going forward without throwing the state into unnecessary and needless pension payment crisis.
The state after identifying the true value/amount of these liabilities and future outlooks, will work/partner with the DMO, FMF, CBN and some selected Deposit Money Banks (as liquidity enhancers) to issue a 5-10 year discountable bearers notes/ instrument for the benefits of the pensioners. This will ensure that there is no much burden of payments on the state.
THE ABOVE IS NOT COMPLEX AT ALL, BUT REQUIRES THE SKILLS OF SOLID/EXPERIENCED FINANCIAL ENGINEERS/INVESTMENT BANKING PROFESSIONALS TO DESIGN, STRUCTURE AND IMPLEMENT.
The incoming government must unavoidably also set up a sub-national debt management office in Imo state to help us restructure and refinance the current huge debt liabilities burden of over N230billion that has been created by the outgoing Rochas government.
They must also digitize the Imo state payroll and overhead expenditure systems/ frameworks and introduce and modify the IPPIS in Imo state. Introduction of a true/effective Zero Budgeting processes and system in across the MDAs in Imo state should be implemented immediately with the speed of light
God Bless Ala Imo
Dr Nnaemeka Onyeka Obiaraeri, FICA, MIRA