By Anayo Okoli
UMUAHIA—SCORES of pensioners of Abia State, yesterday, took to the streets of Umuahia, the state capital, to protest what they called government’s insensitivity to the suffering of their members.
They said their members, who are being owed as much as 20 months arrears of pensions and 18 years of unpaid gratuity were dying on daily basis.
Dressed in all black, the pensioners, some of them looking sickly and fragile, marched from their School Road office through the busy Aba Road to Government House where they were received by Principal Secretary to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Chief Emma Nwabuko, who assured them that the government was making serious effort to pay them.
According to the chairman of Abia State Civil/Public Pensioners Association, Dr Emmanuel Okparanta, his members are owed several months of pension arrears.
He said: “Pensioners are dying on daily basis as a result of delayed payment of pension and gratuity.
“Since the beginning of the year, only one month pension has been paid them, even that of February, only few received the alert.”
Okparanta said they had exhausted all avenues of trying to draw government’s and House of Assembly’s attention to the plight of members without success.
Reeling out the statistics, Okparanta the breakdown to include “unpaid pension arrears from January to October, 2017 (10 months), unpaid accumulated gratuity for 18 years, unpaid backlog of pension arrears for 2013 (12 months) 2014 (8 months) 2015 (10 months) 2016 (9 months)”.
According to him, the government has also failed to key into the pension harmonization from 1999 to 2010, saying it is the reason some of the pensioners in the State still receive as little as N500 monthly.
“We have been dehumanized and subjected to unimaginable suffering and unfulfilled promises by the state government”, he cried out.
The chairman explained that the decision to embark on the protest was to “inform Abians and the world in general the inhuman treatment Abia pensioners are facing since the year 1998 to 2017”.
He said that it was a thing of regret that promises made by the state government to offset the backlog of arrears were not fulfilled, pointing out that the condition of his members was pitiable.