At least 21 states across Nigeria are grappling with a staggering N790 billion pension and gratuity debt that has been carried over from successive administrations. Rivers State takes the top spot with an outstanding N119 billion, followed closely by Benue State with N100 billion in unpaid retiree benefits.
The South-West region leads the geographical areas with a colossal N256 billion debt, while the Niger Delta region is closely behind, carrying an overwhelming N225 billion in unpaid pensions and gratuities.
This mounting burden has been accumulating over time, with each government finding it increasingly challenging to clear the debts left behind by its predecessors. Remarkably, only two states, Kaduna and Kebbi, are up to date in the payment of pensions and gratuities to their retirees.
The report reveals that around 13 states, at the time of this report, were unable to quantify the precise amount they owe to their retirees. A few of these states, such as Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo, are dealing with substantial debt burdens ranging from N36 billion to N64 billion.
Waiting for Pension
In Lagos State, over 10,000 retired civil servants are still awaiting their pension rights, amounting to a staggering N10 billion. However, the Lagos State government has disbursed N52 billion to pensioners in the state civil service from 2019 to the present, with plans to clear the backlog of pension arrears starting from 2022.
Rivers State emerges as the most significant debtor, with an eye-popping N119 billion in unpaid benefits dating back to 2003 and stretching into 2023.
It is important to note that while Bayelsa State owes over N28 billion in gratuities dating back to 2007, it has managed to keep up with its pension payments.
Months Turn into Years
In Cross River State, there is an outstanding gratuity debt of N24 billion, which has accumulated over the years. The current governor, Senator Bassey Otu, has pledged to clear this debt by the end of 2023.
Adamawa State is grappling with a pension and gratuity debt of approximately N4 billion, which has been accumulating since 2012 under successive administrations.
While there is no specific figure available for Akwa Ibom State, the state government has been gradually settling outstanding gratuities, with recent releases totalling N1 billion for teachers, state workers, and local government retirees.
Delta State has an outstanding pension and gratuity debt exceeding N54 billion. The state government has made efforts to address this issue, including guaranteeing a N40 billion loan for the payment of accrued benefits of retired local government workers, primary school teachers, and staff of the Local Education Authorities.
In Benue State, the state government owes over N100 billion in unpaid pensions and gratuities. Local government pensioners are owed 96 months of arrears, while state pensioners are facing a backlog of 36 months.
In Nasarawa State, both state and local government retirees are owed over N50 billion in unpaid benefits, but no official has been willing to comment on the situation.
Yobe State has an outstanding gratuity debt of about N2 billion, and the government has been releasing N100 million monthly to offset this debt.
Abia State pensioners are owed 48 months of arrears and 30 months of gratuity arrears, with the government currently making half payments while working towards full settlement upon conclusion of the verification process.
Anambra State has an outstanding debt exceeding N10 billion in pensions and gratuity arrears, with the new administration making efforts to address the issue by gradually settling the inherited debt.
Different Strokes for Different States
The situation varies across states, with some, like Kebbi, Katsina, and Kaduna, being notable exceptions, as they have successfully kept up with pension and gratuity payments.
While Kwara State is up to date with pension payments, there is no updated data available regarding the amount owed in gratuity to pensioners.
Kaduna State stands as a notable exception, as it is up to date in both pension and gratuity payments.
Kebbi State is another state that has successfully kept up with its pension and gratuity payments, despite inheriting backlog debts from previous administrations.
Plateau State is up to date in the payment of pensions but owes over N21 billion in gratuities and death benefits. The state government is making efforts to reduce this burden by steadily releasing payments.
Bauchi State has managed to clear over N4 billion of its pension and gratuity debt but still has approximately N23 billion left unpaid, which has been accumulating since 2011.
Imo State does not have a specific figure for the amount owed in pensions and gratuities, but the state government is working to address the issue, with some retirees being paid, demonstrating an apparent focus on resolving the backlog.
In Enugu State, the exact figures remain unclear, but as of August, gratuity alone amounted to N30 billion. The state is working on a strategy to verify the exact amount owed to pensioners.
While Ebonyi State has not disclosed the exact amount owed in pensions and gratuities, the government recently approved the payment of arrears of gratuity to retirees from 1996 to 2021, expending over N3.8 billion.
These debt figures highlight the immense challenges faced by many states in Nigeria when it comes to fulfilling their obligations to retirees. The situation underscores the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and strategies to address the mounting pension and gratuity debts across the nation.