Scores of Retirees in Imo State on Wednesday defied the day’s heavy downpour and shut down a part of Owerri especially the Wetheral/Okigwe Road roundabout.
The angry retirees rebuffed entreaties by the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Taiwo Lakanu, as well as the Commissioner for Internally Generated Revenue and Pension Matters, Dr. Vitalis Ajumbe.
The pensioners insisted that they wanted to hear directly from the governor. The situation became more complex when students joined the protest, as they equally outlined a litany of their worries.
The State Chairman of Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) Chief G. Ezeji, narrated how their plight started. Vanguard quoted him as saying:
“When the present Imo State government came on board on May 29, 2011, the citizens, including the Imo pensioners whole-heartedly welcomed and supported the government of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
“On July 18, 2011, he hosted the Imo pensioners at Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, and commenced the payment of three months arrears of pension owed to civil service workers. That was his first act of friendship towards the senior citizens of Imo State.
“He paid the civil pensioners their monthly pension up to December 31, 2014. As for the local government pensioners, he paid them their monthly pension up to December 31, 2014. The retired primary school teachers were paid up to March 2014.”
“Ironically, he started owing the civil pensioners from February 2015 and now owes them 16 months from February 2015 to May 31, 2016. The local government pensioners are now owed 26 months from March 2014 to May 2016. The IBC pensioners are now owed 36 months. The Alvan Ikoku College of Education retirees are owed 68 months.
“The state government is also not paying gratuities to pensioners that are retiring weekly, monthly and yearly. The present Imo State government has refused to harmonize pensions based on Federal Government pension award of six per cent in 2003, and 15 per cent Federal Government award of 2007, as well as 33 per cent Federal Government award of 2011.
“The Imo State pensioners are still receiving pensions based on Chief Olusegun Obasanjo minimum wage of N7, 500 awarded on 2000.
“The harmonization arrears accruing from the Abdulsalami Abubakar and Obasanjo awards totaling 73 months are unpaid to Imo pensioners. The retired permanent secretaries of Imo State are equally suffering with the civil service pensioners in all the problems listed above.”