Ten pensioners died in Abia State last year on account of irregular payment of their monthly pensions. This disclosure is coming as aggrieved pensioners yesterday took to the streets of Umuahia, the Abia State capital, to protest non-payment of their pensions for the past three months.
Apart from the pension arrears, the pensioners also claimed that most of them were yet to receive their gratuity many years after retiring from service, while the arrears arising from the harmonisation of pensions were reportedly high.
The retirees numbering about 100 marched sluggishly along the streets of Bende Road, Aba Road, Akanu Ibiam Road and terminated at Okpara square. At the respective inter-sections of these roads, the senile men stopped and made supplications to God to touch the hearts of those in power to pay their emoluments to forestall their untimely death.
The protest march affected traffic flow as the old men covered one lane of the road. However, after a frantic appeal by one of them, they created a little space for drivers to manouvre.
Speaking with The Tide, Vice Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Umuahia Branch, Deacon Ama Ugo Daniel, lamented that their members had been exposed to untold hardship as they could no longer perform their role as bread winners of their families.
According to him, pensioners in Abia State received only four month pay in a year. In a bitter voice, he said, “We put in 35 years of service and retired but now we have been rejected. We are not paid our entitlements as at when due. When they owe us for four months, they would offset just one month. They do not want us to train our children and honour our financial obligations as heads of our families”.
“Justifying their protest march, Daniel said “our march is to draw attention to our plights and press for the payment of our pension arrears now in the third month. As a result of the irregularity in paying our pensions, 10 of our members died last year when they could no longer put up with the hardship being imposed on us”.
Another aggrieved pensioner accused government of being insensitive to the welfare of pensioners. He said that they were tossed around each time they visit the Umuahia Sub-Treasury office for their pension at the end of every month.
“Officers at the Sub-treasury keep telling us come today, come tomorrow and in the end, we will not receive a dime. Instead of them to inform us that the there is no money, they continually raise our hopes only to dash it in the end. The government should be sensitive to our plight,” said the pensioner who craved anonymity.
Efforts to reach the Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Nick Eleri, to speak on the matter proved abortive as he was said not to be on seat when The Tide called.
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, on assumption of office, set aside N30million monthly for payment of gratuity and pensions. However, the practice was jettisoned after about three months.