…the protest is led by suspended leaders, it has political undertone – NUP
By Peter Duru – Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has apologised to protesting pensioners in the state for the failure of successive governments in regularly paying their monthly pension.
Addressing the aggrieved pensioners at the main entrance of Benue State Government House yesterday, Governor Ortom explained that the protracted problem dates back to the previous governments promising that his government would permanently address it.
While speaking, he said, “The truth is that in 2015 we inherited over N17billion gratuity due to be paid to our pensioners and on pension, we inherited over N34billion at state level in the same 2015.
“But on the whole, we have paid N18.6billion pension and we have been paying but about N20billion is still outstandingly.”
“I want to apologise to you our fathers and mothers, you do not deserve this, it is an unfortunate thing, I feel very sad and I am pained to know that you have been protesting. I know that most of you are on drugs and you deserve your pension to take care of your needs.”
He said some had received alert two days ago and additional N611million had been approved for the payment of April and May arrears to some other retirees who would receive their alerts on Monday or Tuesday next week, stressing that the domestication and inauguration of Pension Commission would also go a long way in addressing the challenge.
In his remark, chairman of the Concerned Pensioners, Comrade Peter Kyado urged the government to fulfil the agreement it had earlier reached with pensioners to end the protest.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Benue State Chapter has distanced itself from the protest saying it was instigated and had a political undertone.
State Chairman of the NUP Comrade Joseph Kyume, stated the position of the union while speaking with journalists shortly after he led a delegation to present the position of the Union to the Governor.
Comrade Kyume said “we have held talks with the State Government and had agreed on harmonisation of payment of pensions to all categories of retirees in the state.
“We also requested the Governor to domesticate the Federal Government’s Contributory Pensions Scheme, PENCOM, in the state which the Governor had done and even gone a step further to inaugurate the commission to address the problem of pensioners in the state.
“So this protest is being led by suspended leaders of the union who had gone to court but lost so we will not allow ourselves to be dragged into partisan politics.”