From Ekaete Ikubor
Pensioners in Rivers State have pleaded with the state government to commence the payment of their gratuities and pension arrears gradually, lamenting that retirees have not been paid gratuities since 2014.
The chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) in the state, Collins Nwonkwo, said: “No gratuities or accumulated arrears have been paid so far, except for monthly pension. That one has been on, but all other benefits that we have been protesting for, like gratuities, arrears of pension, harmonisationand other issues have not received any response yet.
“But we are aware that during the last budget presentation by the governor, we saw some of the provisions the governor made for pension matters. But they are just small money in terms of the realities on the ground. This has kept us restrained a bit. We are watching to see if things will improve, but if he keeps delaying, we will react. We are more interested in getting payment of gratuities and arrears started. His tenure is ending; he should start the payment and wherever he stops if he cannot clear it, becomes a starting point for the person coming after him”, he said.
Nwonkwo maintained that the pension arrears was huge, being that they were owed several months. “The issue is that the state government owes us a lot of money in all the areas. They have not been paying like I said. We have those who retired since 2014, 2015, in fact, from 2014 till date, those who retired have not been paid”.
Speaking on the plight of the pensioners, the South-South Youths Initiative (SSYI) advised Governor Nyesom Wike to pay proper attention to the welfare of the people of the state, including the retirees and pensioners.
Its national president, Imeabe Saviour, in a statement in Port Harcourt, urged the governor to make deliberate effort to pay pensioners their arrears.
He stated that there have been repeated protests by these elders who served the state with all their strength and time. It was painful that we still see this class of people on the streets demanding for what belongs to them that should have been paid with ease.
“We condemn in its entirety the idea of reckless spending of Rivers money on other states. This, the governor does in the form of donation to other state governments. Within two years, the governor has donated N1.5 billion to three states. N500,000,000 to Sokoto State, N500,000,000.00 to Benue State and just last week, the governor donated N500 million to Bayelsa State”, he added.
The statement stated that this should not be happening when pensioners were protesting, the education system was not functioning well, and the primary health care system was going down the drain. We see this as a slap on the people that gave him all the support he needed.