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The Governor of Abia State, Alex Otti, and a group of retired judges in the state have agreed to set up a joint committee to resolve the issue of outstanding benefits and pensions due the retirees for the past 16 years.
The state government had since 2007 failed to pay the retirement benefits of the former judges, which include gratuities, consolidated allowances, severance packages, pensions, and miscellaneous entitlements.
Subsequent administrations had made several commitments either by way of making authorisation for payment or giving approvals to make payment by instalments but none of the commitments was made good.
This led to the judges filing an action at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in 2020 to recover their entitlements.
Sadly, as the legal battles rage, some of the judges are said to have died without receiving their benefits, while many have become sick and unable to afford proper medical care.
The immediate past government reportedly promised to pay N10 million every month, but only did so for one month.
However, Otti met with them on Tuesday, July 25, at his residence in the Nvosi, Isialangwa South area of the state and assured them of the state government’s resolve to bring their predicament to a close.
At the emergency meeting, convened at the instance of the governor to proffer solutions to the lingering impasse, the retired judges and their lead counsel, a former Attorney General of Abia State, Prof. Awa Kalu, SAN, agreed with the governor to immediately set up a committee to resolve the issue.
The committee, which is to include retired judges, officials of the Ministry of Justice and relevant officers of government, would calculate and confirm the actual sum due to each of the retired judges or the beneficiaries of those deceased and report back to the governor within two weeks.
“This is to enable the government to set up a pragmatic strategy that would ensure the immediate liquidation of the outstanding retirement benefits,” said the state Attorney-General, Ikechukwu Uwanna, who was at the meeting.
“His Excellency decried how the state has rewarded its citizens who slaved for the peace, development and progress of Abia State with penury and promised to reverse the trend.”
The judges were led by Justice S. N. Imo who retired as the Chief Judge of Abia State.