Protesting Imo State pensioners who are demanding five months unpaid pensions and gratuities were on Tuesday assaulted by hoodlums in front of Government House, Owerri.
This is the fifth time in less than a month the retirees will be protesting the non-payment of their pensions and gratuities by the Governor Hope Uzodinma-led administration.
Trouble started when thugs clutching canes formed a barricade, preventing the pensioners from approaching the Government House’s main gate.
The retirees who were resolute in their demands defied the situation which led to their flogging by the thugs.
While the retirees were shouting and sobbing, a detachment of police operatives led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), A.J. Moses arrived at the scene.
While the police dispersed the thugs, the ACP appealed to the pensioners to work with the appropriate organs of government, but the pensioners told the ACP that they had exhausted all avenues to talk with the government.
The pensioners accused the state government of being insensitive to their plights.
One of the pensioners, Ebenezer Ibekwe, who spoke to journalists said that the thugs were sent by the government.
Ibekwe, who said that he retired as a secondary school principal in 2011, said the thugs had poured water on them on their way to the government house in a bid to stop them from embarking on the protest.
He stated that no amount of intimidation by the state government would stop them from demanding that their pensions and gratuities be paid to them.
“Thugs were flogging us- their fathers and mothers. I pity them because they have dug their graves. At Warehouse junction, why we were coming, they accosted us and were pouring water on us. This has never happened in this state before.
“The monies we worked for and the government is sending urchins, idiots and never do wells to assault people who are old enough to be their fathers, mothers, and grandparents,” he said.
Reacting, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Print Media, Modestus Nwamkpa, however, denied that the state government sent thugs to flog the pensioners.
He said although the government frowned at illegal protests in the state, it did not sent anybody to assault the retirees.
Nwamkpa added that the government had discovered that most of the protesters were “ghost pensioners” who were being used by the opposition politicians to discredit the Uzodinma-led government.