The pensioners yesterday staged a peaceful protest to press home their grievance over non payment of their pension and benefits which has over time accumulated to over N40 billion. The protesting pensioners who matched to the government house carrying leaves and placard, some of which read, ‘we have been sentenced to death’, ‘in God we trust’, ‘gives our money’ etc, lamented the inability of the state government to pay even the six months arrears owed them by the previous administration out of the N28 billion bailout funds received by the state from the Federal Government.
One of the pensioners Dr. Joshua Abuku, who spoke decried the hardship the senior citizens were passing through nothing that some of their members have died from suffering and others cannot afford even a square meal a day. “We appreciate the fact that the problem that bedevilled the pensioners date back from 16 years ago, but the pensioners are going through hard times,” he said.
He noted that since 2001 though more than six salary reviews have been done pensioners were exempted contrary to the provisions of the law. Addressing the pensioners governor Samuel Ortom said since he came on board as governor he had ensured that pensions were promptly paid. “Since I came in as governor every month I usual release N167 million payment of pensions and local government and N393 million for pensioners at the state level,” the governor noted.
He explained that the N28 billion bailout fund he received was for the payment of only active workers nothing that their earlier request to the Federal Government was tailored to clear both workers and pension arrears, but to his dismay, pensioner was esponged and approval given was only enough to clear the workers arrears. He promised to again relate the plight of the pensioners to President Buhari who also a pensioner, and requested the pensioners to nominate one of theirs to be appointed as his assistant on pension.
– John Shiaondo, Makurdi