Posted by From Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin) on
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday restated his administration's plan to speedily offset the arrears of pensioners across the country.....
PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday restated his administration's plan to speedily offset the arrears of pensioners across the country.
Speaking at an interactive forum with a cross-section of Kwara State indigenes yesterday in Ilorin, in continuation of his two-day visit to the state, the President bemoaned the plight of the pensioners, saying they deserved better care.
Reacting to a question from one of the participants, Mrs. Ajoke Yusuf, the President listed himself among the pensioners and promised to attend to the matter as soon as the payment of debts to local contractors was completed. The Federal Government has put its total pensions arrears at N75 billion.
On Monday, the Federal Government began the payment to local contractors owed N100 million and below.
The exercise, the President said, will continue until all other contractor creditors had been paid, adding: "Then, we shall face the problems of the pensions arrears as well."
He continued: "We are going to pay arrears for pension. It requires a lot of efforts. Our estimate is N75 billion and we are going to pay. We believe that for anybody to have served the nation while agile, he deserves better care."
Obasanjo spoke further: "That is why the idea of contributory pension scheme was introduced. What we owed in terms of pension we will pay. Once we finish with local contractors, we will settle the pensioners."
The President also gave assurance on the completion of dualisation of the Ilorin/Ibadan road before the expiration of his tenure of office.
"The contractors on this road will no longer abandon the project. They will continue to remain there until they finish the project," he pledged.
The President, worried by the profusion of fake vehicle spare parts across the nation, also disclosed his plan to instruct all the state's governors, to establish spare parts spots in their states where genuine products could be got.
For Obasanjo, the proposed cargo shed in Ilorin International Airport will be completed this year, adding that proposals on it had been included in this year's budget. He laid the foundation stone of the project on Monday.
He noted: "The money for the cargo is in the budget. The work will go unhindered. We don't need to be worried about that."
Obasanjo lauded the Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, on his initiative of creating some ambulance spots across the state for road accident victims. The President said such victims should be treated free of charge, especially during the first few hours of the accident.
He acknowledged the enormity of the cost of such a scheme, and promised to make it a collaborative endeavour between the state and the Federal Government.
Reacting to the proposed plans by the Kwara State government to sponsor a joint project on building a gas plant for the domestic and industrial use of Kwara, Oyo and Osun states, Obasanjo said the cost would be too enormous for the states to bear.
According to the President, the project, which will require tapping of the gas from Sagamu to Ilorin will not cost less than $500 million.
He, therefore, advised the concerned state governments to construct power-generating units, which would be cheaper to build and equally be effective.
He later commissioned a Federal Government-built grain silos at Oke-Oyi, and cashew-processing plant, built by the state government at Ogbondoroko, Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State.
Obasanjo also disclosed that his administration had decided to partner with Kwara State on a pilot programme to increase life expectancy in Nigeria.
The President, who announced this yesterday while flagging off the Malaria - Free Kwara Programme, said free medical services would be provided to pregnant women and children under five years of age under the pilot programme.
He had at the weekend convened a retreat of stakeholders in Abuja on how to increase life expectancy in the country.
Speaking at Ilorin on the first day of his two-day state visit, the President said: "We came to the conclusion at the retreat that maternal and child healthcare is very important.
"Mr. Governor, if you would join hands with me I'd want you and the Federal Government to be the first partners in providing free medical services to pregnant women and children".
On how the programme would be funded, Obasanjo who disclosed that the country would be saving over N100 billion yearly from debt services, said: "We can look at this and see whether we cannot give something from it to Kwara State for free medical services for pregnant women and children under five years of age."
He commended Saraki for taking the roll-back malaria programme seriously and for investing in healthcare infrastructure and personnel development.
"I want to commend you and say just keep on doing what you are doing and then the result will be obvious two to three years down the road.
"From what you have said, from what we have seen and from the way you are going about it, it is bound to be effective", the President observed about the Malaria-Free Kwara Programme and the prospect for increasing life expectancy.
"If we can take care of malaria which claims three out of every 10 children born in Nigeria, we shall substantially increase life expectancy".
Earlier in his address, Saraki said that the "Malaria-Free Kwara" programme represented the state government's entry into the battle against the dreadful scourge that has killed many people around the world.
"About 35,000 cases of malaria are reported yearly in Kwara State, and it is observed that malaria accounts for six out of 10 reasons people visit the hospitals in the state; one out of every 10 deaths during pregnancy and three out of 10 under - five mortalities," the governor lamented.