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Retired Alvan Staff groan under unpaid entitlements

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– Head of Service says govt is addressing their problems

Retired staff of the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education (AIFCE) Owerri beween 2007-2009 have carried to the media their battle for survival over their unpaid end-of-service financial benefits (July 2007-Dec. 2009).

Two spokespersons of this Group Sir Alex Onyemekara, former Dean School of Sciences and Sir Alex Ukaegbu, Principal Lecturer, Department of Agriculture, who were interviewed, described their members as “The Unfortunate Group”.  They lamented that those who retired before them, (1993-2007) have fully received their gratuities and were enjoying their pensions without any outstanding arrears while those who retired after them (since Dec. 2009) have been adequately covered in the PENCOM Pension Scheme.

According to the duo, 18 out of their total number of 128 retirees had already died from hardship, without enjoying the benefits of their labour.  Many others are suffering from age-related ailments requiring expensive medical treatment while others are bed-ridden or blind”, they regretted.

A most recent two-page memo by this group, addressed to Governor Rochas Okorocha through the Head of Service and dated April 7, 2013, stated the amount being owed them as: Accumulated Monthly Pension Arrears of N600,000,000 (six hundred million Naira only) a Gratuity  of about N500,000,000 (five hundred million Naira only). To that effect, they wondered why pension should be allowed to accumulate to the extent of growing bigger than gratuity.

The Leader gathered that before now, the group had written a total of 19 memos to the Federal Government, distributed to President Goodluck Jonathan, all Legislators of Imo origin, Minister of Education and all relevant authorities concerned with the payment of pensions and gratuities, all to no avail. “We kept pleading in our memos that the Federal Government was morally bound to take over both AIFCE assets as well as its liabilities.  We had been to the Federal Arbitration Court at Enugu and to the Public Complaints Commission in Owerri, they bemoaned.  These two bodies investigated, intervened and wrote back to Alvan to pay us but there was no succor; instead Alvan authorities, relying on the White Paper on the takeover of the Institution by the Federal Government replied that it was the Imo State Government that should pay us.  After our trip to Abuja and finally laying our hands on a copy of the White Paper, it became obvious to us that it was actually the Imo State Government that was asked to pay us”, lamented the pensive looking senior citizens.

The group which disclosed that it appreciated the enormity of economic projects the State Government had embarked on said that their prayer is that Government releases funds as a matter of urgency for their payment and consider paying them what is owed by installments while they were still alife.  They further explained that the number of years they had suffered without enjoying their entitlements had rendered the monthly pension they had started receiving insufficient and insignificant for their accumulated problems.

THE LEADER later interviewed the State Head of Service, Lady (Mrs.) Nkechi Onumajulu, mni, in order to ascertain what the State Government was doing in response to the numerous efforts the retired Alvan staff had made to draw attention to their miserable conditions.  The Number One Civil Servant explained that the group in question was the one that retired during the period the Federal Government took over the institution from Imo State Government i.e. July 2007-Dec. 2009.  According to her, owing to the sensitive nature of the issue involved, there was need for ample time to ensure adequate compilation of the financial records/entitlements of those concerned.  The arrears of pension was due to the period of stalemate between the Federal and Imo State Government and moreover, a new State Government was just coming on board at that time and the vital papers of those retiring at that point in time were yet to get to the State Government.

She however assured that the details about who was owed what had since been resolved and her office had the previous week forwarded a memo to the Governor requesting that he authorized the release of the needed funds to pay the accumulated arrears to the senior citizens.

Asked whether the arrears of pensions and gratuities could be built into their normal regular monthly pensions, Mrs. Onumajulu replied that such a move will create more confusion and even make a mess of the whole well intended action.

On whether the controversial government directive that every pensioner must return to his community to receive his pension was not fraught with insecurity,  inconvenience and indignity to the elder statesmen, Mrs. Onumajulu appealed to those concerned to give it a chance   adding that it was usual for people to resist changes. She hoped it would pay off in their interest with time.

On whether it will not expose the higher income retirees to unnecessary exploitation and poorer ones to public ridicule by their town folks, the Head of Service explained that only government finance officials will pay pensioners in strict confidence as it has nothing to do with traditional rulers or members of the pensioners’ immediate constituency.

The Head of Department of Pensions Barr. (Mrs.) Lizzy Ajoku who was present at the occasion, recommended that a way to get out of the seeming intractable problem of accumulated gratuities, was for every governor, once he had assumed office, to commence without delay the clearing of every retirement benefits that come up from his first day in office. She cleared the air on the controversy between pension salary and pension arrears.

In a seperate reaction, a relation to one of the Alvan retirees, an apparently enraged Edward Ukaegbu, resident in the United States of America, regretted that retired workers are treated with disrespect in Nigeria. Mr. Ukaegbu, who compared the situation with the respected and celebrated senior citizens in US, could not hide his anger against those responsible for the sufferings of AIFCE retired Staff. He narrated how the plight of his elder brother whom he informed The Leader, sponsored his education, has grossly affected his joy and bore a big hole in his pocket. He advised government to realize that pension payment is an act of justice and not of charity.

 

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USAID begins Covid-19 testing in Imo rural areas

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USAID averts 25,000 unwanted pregnancies in Ebonyi, Kogi

…Umuagwo Varsity of Agric kicks-off October

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun Covid-19 testing in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, “in a bid to reduce the impact of community spread of the virus in the rural areas of the state.

The Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba disclosed this in Owerri while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Weekly Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Hope Uzodimma on Wednesday.

Chief Emelumba said so far, the USAID officials have carried out reasonable number of testing in Njaba LGA and reported that all those tested came out negative and that the council prayed that the result from other Local Government Areas will be the same.

He announced that the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) has approved the take off of the Imo State University for Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo in October this year.

According to him, the approval underscores the efforts which the Imo State Government ably led by Governor Hope Uzodinma has made towards the establishment of a second university for the state.

Recently, the NUC panel was in Imo State to carry out the necessary verification exercises on the state facilities, human and physical infrastructures.

Mr. Declan Emelumba, who was flanked by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Bernard Ikegwuoha, Commissioner for Health Dr. Damaris Osunkwo and the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku, informed that the Executive Council is happy that something new is happening in the Education Sector of the State.

Emelumba said that the Imo State University of Science and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo will take off by October when other universities would be resuming for a new academic session.

In the same vein, the Council has approved the immediate relocation of Faculty of Engineering Imo State University Owerri to its permanent site at Okigwe, stressing that Government has put all processes and facilities on ground to ensure the immediate take–off of the faculty.

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM  Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

The Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku has visited Mr. Ogechi Iwu, a journalist with Osiza FM.

The media man is hospitalized at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri over complications from diabetes that led to his right leg being amputated.

Mr. Nwachuku said the visit was to show solidarity on behalf of Governor Uzodimma to his professional colleague, assuring him of their prayers, particularly that of his principal, and the prayers of Mr. Iwu’s numerous friends and well wishers who are touched by his plight.

“I am here on behalf of my principal to associate with him in this time of health challenge and to encourage him not to see the sickness as a death sentence.”

Oge Iwu at fmc

L-R: Chief Akaraonye, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku with Ogechi Iwu during the visit

Mr. Nwachuku urged Mr. Iwu to continue in the high spirit he saw him and trust God for his total recovery “because healing is a thing of mind and when a sick person is in high spirit the patient gets recovered quickly.”

The spokesman of the Governor promised to bring the plight of the journalist to the attention of his principal, and assured that the Governor will, in his usual manner of one with milk of human sympathy, show concern over Iwu’s plight.

Earlier, Mr. Iwu thanked the CPS/Media Adviser, the State Chairman of NUJ, Imo State, Chief Christopher Akaraonye and other journalists who were on the entourage, for coming to identify with him on his sick bed, and assured that God in his infinite mercy will quicken his recovery.

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma has inaugurated a new Governing Council, for the Imo State University, IMSU, Owerri.

At the inauguration ceremony on Monday, August 31, the governor named Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji as the Chairman of the Governing Council and Pro-Chancellor of the University.

Other members of the Council include: Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chief Tony Ezenna, Prof. (Ven.) Chinedu Nebo, Sir. Louis Ezeigwe, Chief Engr. Ernest Nwapa, Dr. (Mrs.) Uwandu Uzoma, Ugoeze Victoria Adaku Ekezie, Prof. Adaobi Obasi (Vice Chancellor) and others.

Speaking at the inauguration, Governor Uzodimma said the choice of the members is to infuse fresh air into the university because “It is in dire need to bounce back to reckoning.”
He added that the choice of the members was because they have carved a niche for themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour and that they have earned solid reputation as men and women of substance in their individual trade, indices that qualified them for the appointment.

He challenged the members to bring their reputation to bear on the University, bearing in mind the task for good quality scholarship in Imo State University as well as service to humanity.

The Governor urged the members to deploy their individual accomplishments, excellence, expertise, passion for service as effectively as necessary to actualize the dream of his administration of having a highly reputable University comparable to the best Universities in the World.

He also requested the Council to “restore in words and deeds the motto of Imo State University, which is Excellence in Service”.

“Imo State University currently is a classical example of a failed University,” Governor Uzodimma said but strongly believed that “with a star studded Governing Council such as the one inaugurated there is no doubt that Imo is on the track to realize the dreams of her founding fathers.”

He further enjoined the Council members to quickly hit the ground running and come up with policies and programmes that will reassure Imo people that the University that made them proud 20 years back is on track as he assured them of Government partnership in this regard.

In an acceptance speech, on behalf of the Council, the Chairman, Most Rev. Ugorji who is the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia thanked the Governor for the absolute confidence reposed in them by giving them the assignment and acknowledged that though the task is daunting he has a strong belief that with the calibre of members of the Council and support of the management, staff and students the University will be returned to a centre of excellence which was the dream of the founding fathers.

He said that Imo State University deserves the best and that he and his members as inaugurated will work acidulously to ensure that the target of the governor in making Imo State University one of the best universities in Africa is realised.

He congratulated fellow members and promised that God’s willing, they will not fail the government and people of Imo State.

Present at the inauguration were the Deputy Governor, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins, the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Cosmas Iwu, and other members of the expanded State Executive Council.

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