Retired civil servants in Abia, on Wednesday, protested the non-payment of pensions and gratuities to them by the state government.
Under the aegis of Concerned Abia Pensioners, the aged retirees said they embarked on a two-days state-wide protest to demand the payment of their 38 months pension arrears, 20 years of non-payment of gratuities, and non-harmonisation of pensions from 1998 to 2010 by the state government.
The agitated pensioners held placards with inscriptions like “Abia Pensioners: Non-payment of gratuity since 2020”, “Abia Pensioners: Our monthly payment for 38 months now” and “Let Governor Ikpeazu cut his security vote and pay pensioners”.
The coordinator of the group, Emeka Okezie, said even when they were paid, it was a quarter of their salaries, adding, “We have no money to buy drugs, especially our diabetic and hypertensive pensioners”.
“We have children to look after, especially those in the universities. We are retired and don’t have any work to do. We are only looking up to God and don’t know where we are heading to. We are asking the state government to help us before we all die”, he said.
They expressed their confidence in the State Commissioner of Finance, Dr. Aham Uko, whom they said has on several occasions come to their help and thanked him with prayers to God over his disposition to pensioners in the state.
Responding on behalf of the state government, the State Commissioner of Finance, Uko expressed his concern and that of the state government over their plight, blaming it on the prevalent “economic downturn” facing the world and which Nigeria has been grappling with as a nation.
He disclosed that a further challenge with them is the discovery of 4, 422 irregular names and non-pensioners in their payroll, stating that this has been causing the state government the sum of N6 billion to the fake pensioners.
“We have been removing the names to enable us to pay the real pensioners. We have to make sure we extricate them from the genuine pensioners and we cannot pay the non-pensioners,” the finance boss said.
Even as some of the pensioners publicly said they have received alerts that Wednesday, the commissioner pleaded with them to exercise patience as any delay in payment was a result of the bank interchange network, assuring that in less than two days, they would receive their alerts.
Uko further lamented, “I don’t sleep each time I remember your plight. It gives me discomfort”, and further assured that the state government was working with their leadership to resolve any issues on that.