Pensioners Took Over Imo State, Protest Unpaid Pensions (PHOTOS)


Aggrieved pensioners yesterday in Owerri, the Imo State capital, protested the non-payment of their arrears and gratuities.
The protesters barricaded major roads around the city, making vehicular movement difficult.
They faulted the state government’s alleged directive that they forfeit 60 percent of their accumulated pensions and gratuities.
The pensioners were earlier given a form to fill by the state government.
The form reads: “I voluntarily accept the payment due to economic situation in the country presently. I do hereby release and discharge the Imo State Government and its agents from all past, present and future liabilities and from all actions, claims and demands in respect of the said accumulated pension arrears.”
The protesters, who took over the streets as early as 6.30 a.m, displayed placards with various inscriptions, such as: ”Asking pensioners to forfeit 60 per cent of their pension arrears is evil”; Forty per cent proposal of payment of pension arrears is fraudulent”; “Pay the much you can source, government is a continuum”; “Government project is for the living, not for the dead”; and “We need our 100 per cent pension arrears period.”
Addressing reporters at the Okigwe Road Roundabout, opposite the Government House in Owerri, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) State Chairman Gideon Ezeji said the pensioners embarked on the protest because of the government’s inability to pay their accumulated arrears.
The union leader said efforts to compel the government to treat the matter with the urgency it deserved fell on deaf ears.
He said the government compelled the pensioners to collect 40 per cent of the accumulated arrears and forfeit the remaining 60 per cent.
The NUP chairman listed the unpaid arrears to include civil pensioners, 22 months; local government retirees, 23 months; Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), 43 months; retired permanent secretaries, 22 months; primary school teachers, 32 months and Alvan Ikoku College of Education retirees, 77 months.
He said: “We say no to 40 per cent payment of arrears of pension and call on the state government to pay us 100 per cent before December 23.”
But in a statement by the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, the government described the protesters as union leaders who were angry that the pensioners were paid directly.
The government said this made it impossible for them to deduct the money from the pensioners.
The statement said: “Our attention has been drawn to a group of about 100 people or thereabout, said to have come on protest the agreed arrangement to pay pensioners whose grades fall between Level 7 and Level 14, 40 per cent of their pension arrears, while those on Grade Level One to Six would have 100 per cent payment. We are talking about a state with more than 30,000 pensioners with monthly pension bill of N1.4 billion.
“To say the least, we have our doubt whether or not these people on protest are actually pensioners, considering their youthful age and considering too the popular acceptance of the arrangement by most of the pensioners in the state.
“Granted that some of the leaders of the Pensioners’ Union had complained that direct payment to the pensioners through the ward Coordinators of the State Development Councils (SDC) would deny them the money they were deducting from source from the account of each of the pensioners, but the larger interest of the pensioners should come first…”
The statement continued that, “Governor had, out of genuine concern decided to pay the more than thirty thousand Pensioners in the State all their Pension arrears to enable the perennial issue of pension arrears addressed once and for all. “The Pensioners have done their own part by signing the forms accordingly and the government is set to begin the payment. So, the few ones who have refused to Cooperate may have their reasons, but in every setting, those who are few in number do not impose their decision or action on the majority.”




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