In what can be described as a watershed in the running battle between pensioners and the Edo state government, Governor Godwin Obaseki on Monday met with the pension union executives and organised labour in the state, where the pensioners admitted that their monthly pension payments were regular and as and when due.
A fallout of the meeting was the constitution of an 8-man committee comprising of members of organised labour and state government officials to design how batch payments of arrears for state and local government pensioners will be implemented.
Chairman of the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Comrade Pullen Noruwa, disclosed this after the meeting with Governor Obaseki at the Government House, Benin City, to address persistent clamour that led to constant protests by state and local government pensioners.
Recall that the state government had few weeks ago suspended the payment of monthly pension at the height of incessant sponsored protests at Oba Market, Ring Road, the Benin City centre, against the state over alleged non-payment of pension arrears.
According to Comrade Noruwa, “About a week ago, the state suspended payment of monthly pension. We decided to come here to know why that happened and we were told that the governor is not happy with those people who protest in Ring Road daily. We have come to appeal to him and assure that nothing like that will happen again. There appears to have been a communication gap between the pensioners and the government, which has now been resolved. A committee has been set up consisting of organised labour and officials of the state government.”
The State Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Emmanuel Ademokun, said that the organised labour are going to be a part of the committee to ensure the smooth running of the agreement, adding, “The state delegation, to be steered by the office of the Head of Service, is to be led by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Osarodion Ogie Esq. The committee will work together to ensure that there is no communication gap. The Governor said that before tomorrow, all pensioners will receive their alert.
Noting that modalities to settle pension arrears for state and local government pensioners will be worked out by the committee, he said, “They would outline how arrears will be paid in batches on monthly basis to ensure the outstanding payment is settled in good time.”
He added that organised labour in the state will meet with aggrieved pensioners on Wednesday, November 8, at Teachers House, to address them and relay the good news from the governor.
A prominent face at the protests in Ring Road, Barr. Gabriel Osemwenkhai, said, “For now, I am satisfied. From what the governor has said, there are plans to ensure we are paid our arrears. There used to be a communication gap. Now that the governor has agreed to pay outstanding arrears, we are happy. That is what we have been fighting for. Aside from this, the governor has been performing very well. We want him to settle this matter so that there will be no future occurrence. I thank him and the organised labour for wading in.”