From BONIFACE OKORO, Umuahia
The Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Abia State chapter, has decried the inability of the state governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, to clear the arrears of pensions owed their members.
NUP is therefore appealing for the intervention of all stakeholders to prevail on the governor “to do the needful to stop the gradual extermination of Abia State senior citizens.”
NUP noted that in addition to old arrears, the Ikpeazu administration owes them 14 months arrears “from September 2017 to October 2018,” while pensioners from Abia State University Teaching Hospital Pensioners have not been paid since November 2014.
Rising from an enlarged executive council meeting, NUP said it was unfortunate that the meeting between Ikpeazu and Abia pensioners on September 25, 2017, produced little or no result.
At that meeting called at the instance of the governor, he had promised to work out a mechanism for proffering sustainable solutions to the pension payment problem of the state.
But the group lamented that instead of being reduced, the arrears owed pensioners has doubled since the meeting.
“The Council regrets that since May 28, 2018 when the State Governor met with the State Executive Committee of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Abia State, during which the governor personally promised a gradual and eventual clearance of the pension arrears, it is sad to note that he has failed in this promise,” NUP said in a communiqué signed by the state chairman, Comrade Chukwuma Udensi and the Secretary, Elder O. C. Arungwa.
“The governor pledged without any coercion or negotiation in that meeting that he would be paying three months of pension arrears in every two months. What had happened since then is neither here nor there as pensioners are yet to have a feel of the governor’s promise.
“The council expressed profound surprise at this act of unusual neglect and lack of concern exhibited by the governor and the Abia State government which he leads, over the sorry plight of pensioners, many of whom are facing serious health challenges, others are bed-ridden, while many others have passed on as a result of frustration, hunger and lack of medical care,” the communique added.
The NUP leadership lamented that their members were dying on daily basis as they could not afford to procure drugs needed to sustain them.
The pensioners also attacked members of the State House of Assembly who approve the State’s budget of keeping a blind eye to their plight by declaring at the end of every year “that the budget has been fully implemented while pensions budget in that year were not paid.”
They also expressed “immense disappointment and lack of confidence in the State Commissioners of Finance, and Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs for their failure to advise the Governor appropriately on the proper administration of pensions in the State.”
Meanwhile, the State government has debunked rumours making the rounds that it was embarking on verification of pensioners at a location in the state.
A statement made available to newsmen by Meregini Lucky, the Public Relations Officer of the State Ministry of Information, on behalf of the Commissioner, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, dismissed the rumour as misinformation and advised to ignore invitations to gather for verification or for any other purpose not approved by the government and/or the leadership of NUP.