Infographic showing details of arrears of entitlements paid to Akwa Ibom workers by Governor Umo Eno.

Abasifreke Effiong

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno, has paid gratuity and embloc pension to 20,699 retirees and next-of-kins of primary school teachers, ending years of protests over non-payment of the entitlement.

Within one year in office, Governor Eno has released N18.262 billion for payment of gratuity and arrears of other emoluments owed primary school teachers and other local government workers.

“We have paid ₦18.2 billion in gratuities to retired State civil servants, retired primary school workers as well as our conscious efforts to lift people from poverty through our AK-Cares initiative”,
Eno said in his first anniversary speech on Tuesday.

A breakdown of the payment obtained from Office of the Accountant General shows that 8282 workers who retired from the state civil service from 2016 have been paid.

7943 primary school teachers who retired between 2011 and 2012 have also been paid their gratuity.

The payment details further show that 4474 local government staff who retired between 2013 and 2014 have been paid.

The Governor has also paid 2013, 2014, 2022 and 2023 leave grant to primary school teachers, 2012 and 2014 salary arrears and 2022 leave grant to local government workers. Workers in the state civil service have also been paid the 2023 leave grant.

Accountant General, Pastor Uwem Andrew-Essien, whose office is responsible for the payment when authorised said Governor Umo Eno has shown immense political will in addressing issues of workers welfare.

When asked how was it possible for the current administration to pay so much within one year, the AG said, “immense political will by the Governor.”

“Many times when I go to him (the Governor) for discussion, he will ask me, ‘how far have we gone with the arrears, please remember to bring up the issue of primary school teachers’,” Andrew-Essien recounted.

Governor Eno has girded himself to the hearts of Akwa Ibomites with his exceptional commitment to the soft issues of governance, winning the support and admiration of thousands of workers within his first year in office through his welfarist actions and programmes.

READ: Eno’s one year in office: Clever decisions free more fund for debts

The payment of backlog of gratuity and pension dating back to 2011 has ended years of repeated protests by retired primary school teachers and their next-of-kins.

Recall that burdened the desire to get government and public’s attention, retired primary school teachers and children of their deceased colleagues came together sometime in 2020 to form Forum of Retired Primary School teachers and Next-of-kins, Akwa Ibom State.

The forum organised a solemn assembly in July 2020 to seek “divine intervention” when it appeared government was not responding appropriately despite series of non-violent protests along Barracks road near Government House Uyo.

The prayer meeting was held at Saint Michael School, Abak road, Uyo.

Secretary of the Forum, Benson Benjamin, said in August 2022 at one of their outings that they will continue to protest until their entitlements are paid.

His words: “These people have served for 35 years and they deserve their entitlements and today we are telling the governor to take the responsibility and pay these people their entitlements, we ask him to come and do the needful.

“Our members are dying by the day, our members cannot go for their medical treatments. We urge the government to take the bull by the horn and pay the entitlements.

“The government should do the needful, if we go back today without a positive response, we will come back on September 23, to press further our demands and you know what that means because we need that money.”

Pensioners whose benefits were delayed have praised Governor Eno for committing to clearing the backlog.

The President, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Akwa Ibom State chapter, Comrade Anestina Iweh, said their long list demand for arrears has been replaced with a “banner of thank you”.

Iweh said in a message celebrating this year’s worker’s day pushed online, “2024 worker’s day met us well.”

“Local Government Workers across the State trooped out to join other Unions in the celebration of 2024 Workers’ Day at the Uyo Township Stadium. This time, in high spirits full of smiles of joy and hearts of thanksgiving, as our April Salaries keep dropping as we were walking into the stadium, a departure from what we were known for in some years past.

Our long list of Unpaid arrears was replaced with a banner of “thank you” and our protracted march of protest turned to a march of Jubilee. Indeed, His Excellency Pastor Umo Eno has done us well and our better days and best years are here.

“As boldly scripted on our banner during the May Day march past, we are all testifiers that in less than 12 months, many of our arrears have been paid. It is no longer news that the Pastor Umo Eno-led administration has so far paid 2020 and 2021 leave grants arrears and currently, data are being collated for the payment of 2013 and 2014 arrears which was a no go area before now. Worthy of mention is the payment of salary arrears to 9 Local Government Councils owed since 2013 and 2014, and the payment of gratuity to our retirees.”

“We cannot thank our dear Governor, Pastor Umo Eno enough for staying true to his electioneering promises. We told him of the deprived state of Local Government Workers and he promised he would try his best to make things right. Today his best has changed our stories for the better”, the message read.