Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, has accused his predecessor, Senator Seriake Dickson of leaving behind eight year pension and gratuity liabilities of retired civil servants for him to settle.
Diri, who stated this at an interactive session with journalists as part of activities for his first anniversary in office, however, said he would offset the pension and gratuity liabilities.
The governor was sworn in as governor on February 14, 2020, after the Supreme Court nullified the election of David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that won the November 16, 2019, governorship election in the state.
But the governor said he could not settle in to duty after his inauguration because of the plethora of litigation challenging his election that took a long time to resolve.
Diri said: “This administration came in at a time we had lost hope, and God, in His miraculous way, gave us a miracle, and we came in to behold a floodgate of litigations which kept us standing on one leg. But we also overcame.
“The year 2020, to some, was a very bad and challenging year. But for us in the present administration, it was a very good year because we waded through all the challenges, including dwindling revenues.
“We found out that the people who have served in the Bayelsa State Civil Service and retired were not paid gratuities and pensions, and it even extended beyond the immediate-past administration.“So, we resolved to confront the challenge on assumption of office by setting aside N200 million monthly to clear the backlog, and from the recent infrastructure refunds, we added another N500 million to offset the arrears.
“We have remained committed to the welfare of both the workforce and retirees to the extent that we take overdrafts from commercial banks to pay salaries when our revenue falls.
“Our wage bill is over N5 billion and sometimes, we get N6 billion as allocation, and it becomes difficult, so we have been facing daunting challenges but we shall complete the three senatorial roads started by my predecessor.
“Also, we have injected N1 billion to rehabilitate internal roads which we met in a deplorable state of disrepair, as we have also started a couple of new projects for the benefit of our people.”
The governor, however, appealed to the media to be objective and offer constructive criticism of the government, as he praised the media for revealing that a contractor engaged to provide solar light for the Etegwe roundabout in Yenagoa was using substandard materials.