Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, Umuahia
Pensioners in Abia State have said they have only received one month pension since this 2017.
The Spokesman for the pensioners, Chief Emmanuel Okparanta, stated this on Wednesday, when they took their ongoing protest to the State House of Assembly.
The protest is coming less than two weeks the retirees had barricaded the major entrance to the Government House, demanding immediate clearance of their accumulated pension arrears.
The pensioners who were adorned in black attire had earlier converged at the Sub- Treasury, on Bende Road in Umuahia, the State capital, from where they trekked a distance of about three kilometres to the State Assembly.
Okparanta alleged that the state government had abandoned pensioners, while lamenting that their members are now dying of hunger due to accumulated pension arrears.
He disclosed that pensioners were last paid their gratuity 18 years ago, a development he said had made life unbearable for retirees in the state.
He accused the State Governor of handling the welfare of pensioners with levity, arguing that he pays workers but ignores pensioners.
The senior citizen regretted that the Governor had not taken any practical steps to address their matter despite the assurances from him after their meeting on September 25.
He said, “We met the Governor at Okpara auditorium and he promised to bridge the gap between us and workers but since then, he has done nothing.”
Okparanta who was fighting back his tears as he recounted the ordeals of the pensioners, also said one of them who participated in the earlier protest on November 15 had died out of stress.
He said a lot of the pensioners could no longer cope with life, adding that some of them who are on routine drugs are dying like chicken due to lack of funds to stay afloat.
He decried the non review of pension scheme since 2010, as he said that some pensioners who retired before 2010 still receive as low as N500, N1000, and N2500 as pensions monthly.
He sought the urgent intervention of the lawmakers particularly to compel the state government to harmonise pension.
“Please tell the governor to pay us at least for six months because there is money in the state. Anybody saying there is no money in Abia State now should come and let us tell him that we know how money comes into the state and its movements.”
“The lawmakers should use their position to compel the executive into action to mitigate the sufferings of pensioners in the state following years of accumulated pension arrears,” he lamented.
The Speaker, Mr.Chikwendu Kanu, thanked the pensioners for comporting themselves peacefully.
While sympathizing with the pensioner over their plight, he assured them grievances would be treated as a matter of public urgency.
He decried a situation where some pensioners still receive paltry N500 as pension, and promised that the House would initiate actions towards “ righting the wrong”.
“It is ridiculous to pay somebody N500 as pension, anybody who is disregarding old age, what he is saying is that he wouldn’t be old”, he said.
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