INVESTIGATION: In Cross River, civil servants retire into poverty as govt looks away, squanders funds on frivolities
Entry type: Single project
Publishing organisation: Ripples Nigeria.
Organisation size: Big
Publication date: 2022-12-14
Authors: George Kaduna. He helped with the data used to tell the story.
Arinze Chijioke is a Nigerian-based freelance journalist covering climate change and Environment, business and SMSs, health, anti-an corruption, gender-based violence and human rights.
His stories have have appeared on Aljazeera, International Journalists Network, International Policy Digest, Ripples Nigeria, International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Prime Progress, Thisday and Solace Base among other platforms.
He has won awards and nominations, including the maiden edition of the Cleft Awareness Media Award 2021 and the 1st runner up in the 2020 PWC media excellence awards for SMEs reporting. He was a finalist at the 2021 West Africa media excellence awards (WAMECA).
When civil servants, they hope to receive their gratuities and regular pension to b able to achieve the things they could not while in active service, But since 2014, thousands of these old men and women who served in Cross River, a state in Nigeria’s South South region have not received their entitlements. Rather than pay the retirees, the governor prefers to spend the money on buying cars to curry political favour. This investigation looked at the plight of these men and women and how the state government misappropriated funds meant for payment of gratuities and pensions.
Before the investigation was published on December 14, the Cross River State governor was not in the habit of paying pensions regularly. Usually, retirees received their December pension by January. But after the report, he paid pensions for November and December even before the month ended. I have had the pensioners call to inform me. What is left is the gratuity. After i shared the story on Twitter and Linkedin, it stirred up conversations, with many questuioning why a government should care less about the welfare of its workers.
To be able to tell the story in way that it will have the greatest of impact, I used Lumen 5 technology to create a video with available images. I used Venngage to create infographics, capturing the remuneration package of the governor and the number of cars, worth millions he has bought and given away when pensioners are dying I poverty. I also provided documents, including newspaper publications concerning the pension issue which were published alongside the story. This is to ensure that the government is pushed to act accordingly and to also help readers have a clear understanding of the subject.
Context about the project:
Access to data was a major challenge for me. In telling the story, i needed documents concerning the governor’s remuneration package to be able to juxtapose it with the situation of workers in the state. I also needed documents concerning funds that were paid to the state government to be used for payment of retirees that were diverted. In one of the times I had to to the government house to request for access to data. On entry, i had several security operatives question my reason for coming. And when i told them, they threatened me and asked me to go home, that the document was not available.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
To be able to tell this story better, I used documents that gave it credibility. These includes documents concerning remuneration and old newspaper publications where the governor made promised to the pensioners. Getting these documents took time and efforts. I kept pushing and meeting people in government who knew how where the documents were but were hesitant to provide them. I had to convince them about the need to tell the story and hiw important the documents were. For the newsapaper publication, I haf to trace the head of the state Library who had retired. I gave the story enough time. What journalist can learn is that there is no need to rush when chasing stories if they must have impact. They must always do well to get every necessaery information because it gives the story credibility.
Another lesson is that journalist must always define what they want to achieve before setting out to do a story. Before i commenced, i told myself that I wanted to tell a story that will move the government to act. I wanted results. And gradually, my goal for doing the story is being achieved.