Pensioners in Umuahia, Abia State on Wednesday took to the state’s government house to protest over two years of non-payment of gratuity and half payment on previous pay received.
The pensioners made up of aged men and women came out en masse and crowded the entrance gate of the government house singing solidarity songs in demand of their pay.
In the address of Chief Emeka Okafor, the coordinator of concerned Abia pensioners to the state’s SSG and Commissioner for finance present to respond to the protesting pensioners said they have submitted their grievances which is well detailed in the document.
He applauded how they were paid pension regularly in the past. He also said some pensioners weren’t able to join the protest due to their health challenges.
In his words: “We want to solicit your able leadership to pay the pensioners. The whole of 2018, no payment, the whole of 2019, no payment. Recently they paid two or four months, one-quarter or half paid. So I don’t know where we are heading to. We have our children in the university. We are retired and don’t have any other work to do.”
Chief Okafor also listed harmonization of pension, no payment of gratuity and others as their demands.
“Please we are asking the government to help us.” Chief Emeka Okafor submitted.
Addressing the pensioners was the Abia state commissioner for finance, Hon. Aham Uko. He said he is personally touched with the condition of the pensioners and explained that there’s an economic downturn amongst other issues.
In his own words: “Honestly there’s economic downturn, you all know my relationship with you people, am not going to deceive you people, we have economic downturn as a nation that we have been grabbling with”.
The commissioner also asserted that “we are in a political era and opposition party can take advantage of their genuine protest”.
“You know this political era and some political opponent can also send machinery but we don’t want to get into that. ” Hon Aham said.
Hon. Aham also wished the executives of the protesting pensioners were on ground to testify that they have been discussing with them on the effort made so far.
The commissioner for finance also said after careful scrutiny of the payroll of the Abia pensioners, he spotted some descripancy.
“After consciously looking into the payroll of pensioners I detected with support of the executives of the pensioners. For local government, we detected irregular pensioners of 4,422 names that are not supposed to be pensioners but they are there. Ask your executives, with their support, we extracted those names.” Hon. Aham revealed.
He also pleaded for their cooperation so that the genuine people will be paid.
“The gratuity attached to that 4,422 names is over six billion naira. So we have to make sure that we remove the names of those fake pensioners that is not genuine. It takes time to find out and we can’t keep paying gratuity to those that are not pensioners. So haven concluded that exercise, we want to make sure that at least on regular basis, you get something. We have removed all those irregular names.” Hon. Aham said.
Hon. Aham also added that some of the pensioners have started getting their pay since yesterday, stating that he has been on it. He also faulted the challenge of network issues to interconnect with other banks.
“Between now and Friday you will be receiving your alert”. Hon Aham assured.
The pensioners also responded by asking chorus question on if they should expect full or half payment judging from what they claimed to be paid a while ago.
“We are making effort to see that each and everyone of you gets something at the end of the month regardless of the situation we have in the country today. ” Hon Aham responded.