N23B Pensioners’ Claims: Mutfwang To Appear in Court As Retirees Sue PLSG

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17 Local Government Councils of Plateau State To Appear In Court Tomorrow, April 8, 2024 As 986 Retirees Sue PLSG Over unpaid Gratuities & Pension Arrears

As 986 Retirees Narrate Ordeal, Confirm Efforts To Foster Amicable Resolution With Plateau State Government, PLSG Proved Abortive.

By Victor Bieni, Jos

As part of efforts towards ensuring that the Judiciary play its roles in terms of contributing towards social peace, upholding the rights, trust of citizens for dispute resolution, fairness, equity and justice, Messrs Dung Mammam Zi and Zakka T. Plangzak on behalf of 986 Retirees of the 17 LGAs of Plateau State, had taken legal action against the Executive Governor of the State, Governor Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang, Chairmen of 17 Local Government Areas of the State and others as they are to appear in National Industrial Court Court, Jos, tomorrow being 8th April, 2024 over alleged unpaid gratuities and pension arrears worth N23B as claimed by the Local Government Retirees .

Our reporter learnt today being on Sunday, April 7, 2024 in a Lawsuit made available to some group of Journalists in Jos, Plateau State capital which contains the lawsuit as filed by Messrs. Dung Mamman Zi and Zakka T. Plangzak themselves and on behalf of 986 other retirees sued the 17 Local Government Councils Chairmen, Plateau State Government and 23 others as joined in Suit No: NICN/JOS/22/2023 in the National Industrial Court of Nigeria holding tomorrow being April 8, 2024 at Jos.

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The Lawsuit hinted that, the case will be heard at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Jos on April 8th, 2024. The details of the Lawsuit as contained in the court order had it that, the 986 LG Councils Retirees in Plateau State had a lawsuit claims of a total of 23 billion Naira owed to them. This amount includes unpaid gratuities, pension arrears which was calculated based on 55% of the 18,000 minimum wage (instead of the 100% paid to state civil servants), and other outstanding pension amounts.

Historically, you could recall that the said ordeals as faced by the 986 retirees of 17 LGAs in Plateau State as learnt by our reporter, the Retirees retired between 2012 and the date of the lawsuit was filed in 2023. This, according to them, the Retirees have not received their gratuities. Most of the Retirees also have pension arrears dating back to their retirement, when they were only offered half pensions based on the 55% salary agreement. In 2011, the Plateau State Government represented by MLCA, LGSC witnessed by the Minister for Labour and Productivity as well as State chairman of NLC in Plateau State, who reached an interim agreement with the Labor Unions representing Local Government employees. This agreement stipulated a temporary 55% salary for local government employees compared to their state-level counterparts. The remaining 45% was promised upon improvement in government revenue.

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According to the lawsuit as made available to newsmen, the media learnt that despite the minimum wage increases, the promised arrears have not been paid to the 986 retirees. Additionally, some health workers have suffered reductions in their Grade Levels, impacting their pension calculations. The 986 Retirees had also confirmed to the media that efforts for Resolution proved abortive as pursued using various avenues for resolution before resorting to legal action. They contacted the then Head of Service, Mrs. Hulda Fwanchi, who established a committee to investigate their case. The committee recommended calculating their pensions based on the full 100% salary rate given to state civil servants. However, this recommendation was not implemented.

The media learnt that, the legal basis for the claims on the lawsuit is supported by Sections 210 and 318(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended), which define a Public Officer of the State to include Local Government staff. Additionally, Sections 16 and 20 of the Local Government Staff Pension Board Law of Plateau State state that upon retirement, a local government employee is entitled to the same benefits as those at the state level.

Authenticating the law suits, or legal action by the 986 Retirees of the 17 Local Government Councils of Plateau State to the media and in line with the arguments as presented by their Lawyers; which comprises of A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Edwin O.Okoro, the lead counsel, Mr. Nanyak Dindam Dashe, representing the retirees, argues that previous governments have mistakenly viewed local government employees as deserving less due to their association with the third tier of government. He emphasizes that these employees are essentially state government employees assigned to work at the local level.

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Dashe contends that the Constitution recognizes only two public service categories: the Federal Public Service for federal government staff and the State Public Service, which encompasses both state-level employees under the State Civil Service Commission and local government employees under the Local Government Service Commission. Notably, the same House of Assembly established both commissions. Speaking further, Dashe argues that, local governments deserve greater support due to their direct service to rural communities. Regarding pensions and gratuities, he emphasizes their status as protected rights under Section 210 of the Constitution.

The counsel to the 986 Plateau State LGC Retirees, Dashe argues more on Pension Review and Minimum Wage Increase, that the retirees have the right to request a pension review since the Constitution mandates such reviews whenever salaries are adjusted. According to him, “Given that their pensions are currently based on the 18,000 minimum wage, they should be recalculated based on the new 30,000 Naira minimum wage. She anticipates further pension increases and gratuity recalculations with the potential introduction of a new minimum wage”.

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