From Steve Oko, Umuahia
Abia State Government says it will today, March 16, 2020 commence biometric data capturing of all pensioners to ascertain the actual number of genuine pensioners in the state.
Commissioner for Finance, Chief Aham Uko who disclosed on Sunday at a press briefing in Umuahia said the exercise had become necessary to checkmate the rising cases of irregular names on the pension scheme.
The Commissioner also said the exercise was aimed at pruning down the huge monthly pension bill of the state to ensure regular payment of genuine pensioners.
“Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu -led government wants pensioners to be treated with dignity and to enjoy the benefits of their active years in service,” he said.
Chief Uko who put the pension arrears of the state at N21 billion, said government was concerned about the humongous bill and was determined to put in place a process of liquidating them.
The Commissioner who disclosed that he met a monthly pension bill of N510 million when he came on board in November 2019, said he had been able to reduce it to N380 million through thorough scrutiny of list of pensioners.
He said government’s intention was to sustain regular payment of pensioners every month which had commenced in December 2019.
Chief Uko said the facial-capturing and finger-printing as well as Biometric Verification Number, BVN confirmation of pensioners would last for 10 day.
He explained that all genuine pensioners captured during the exercise would receive their pension for the month while provisions had been made for spill -overs who he, added would get paid as soon as they were captured.
Uko further explained that pensioners who travelled outside the state should not bother coming back for the exercise but simply log in to the website already provided and get captured.
The Commissioner said ambulances would be stationed at the sub-treasuries in the eventuality of any health emergency, adding that pensioners with health challenges would also get free blood pressure and blood sugar tests.
He advised genuine pensioners in the state to take advantage of the verification exercise “and end the era of pension arrears,” while warning ghost pensioners not to come close to the capturing centres or risk arrest.
The exercise, according to him, will be conducted simultaneously in all 19 sub-treasuries across the state “in an orderly manner.”
He, however, said that the primary, junior secondary school teachers and local government retirees would not be part of the exercise, explaining that it would later be extended to them.
The Commissioner further disclosed that the state government intends to conduct a biometric of all civil servants in the state with a view to having a data bank of both pensioners and civil servants still in active duty.