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July 20, 2018

Pensioners, Students Shutdown Owerri …Over unpaid pension, bad roads

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NUP boss, Chief Gideon Ezeji addressing journalists during protest.

Members of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) Imo States,  on Tuesday, June 15 paralyzed activities of the State Government as they barricaded the Government House Roundabout preventing vehicular movements to the seat of government.
Commuters were forced to do a detour, and treked long distances as the retirees barricaded the ever busy Government House Roundabout  which connects Wetheral Road, Okigwe Road and Assumpta Avenue.
According to Chief Gideon Ezeji, State Chairman of NUP, the peaceful protest was due to non-payment of pensions, gratuities and non harmonization of arrears by the State Government.
The protesting retirees who included former Permanent Secretaries and Directors, decried the care-free attitude of Governor Rochas Okorocha, who they accused of handling them with contempt, levity and odium.
Chief Ezeji observed that the luke-worm and lackadaisical approach of the governor has led to untimely death of a good number of them who could not afford decent meals, medi-care and welfare.
The quick intervention of some medical personnel from the Government House resuscitated lives of two elderly pensioners who collapsed during the peaceful protest.
According to Chief Ezeji, the State Government owes Civil Service pensioners 16 months, the Local Government pensioners 17 months and IBC pensioners 36 months. The Alvan Ikoku College of Education retirees are owned 68 months.
”The state government is also not paying gratuities to pensioners that are retiring weekly, monthly and yearly,” Chief Ezeji further complained.
The present Imo State Government has blatantly refused to harmonize pensions based on Federal Government pension award of 6% in 2003, 15% of 2007 and 33% of 2011.
The NUP boss complained bitterly that the Imo State Pensioners are still receiving pensions based on Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s minimum wage of N7,500 awarded in 2000. The harmonization arrears accruing from the Abdul Salam Abubakar and Obasanjo awards totalling 73 months are unpaid to pensioners. The Retired Permanent Secretaries of Imo state are equally suffering with the civil service pensioners in all the problems listed above.
He postulated that when the governor stopped paying them the listed entitlements, the pensioners decided to bear with him because he was already campaigning for his second tenure. The retirees supported him, campaigned and voted for him en mass.
According to him, the Union wrote and enumerated the problems of Imo Pensioners to the governor on 25th May 2015. In the said letter we sought for audience with the governor on 10th June 2015 but ironically the said letter was not acknowledged and the audience not granted till today. On the whole, the State government only paid about 30% of pension sometime in October 2015. As at today the pensioners are owed between’16 and 68 months pension arrears, despite unending verification exercises in 2011. 2014 and 2015 (twice).
”With these verifications conducted by government it is unfortunate that government is still talking of ghost pensioners. We thought that government through these verification exercises should by now come up with the list of ghost pensioners it alleged are in her payroll. That notwithstanding the leadership and members of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners Imo State are not against verification provided it goes with payment immediately to physically verified pensioners. We call on the Imo State government to pay us our entitlements. If South East states like Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi without oil revenue are paying their senior citizens it is incumbent on Governor Okorocha to set in motion the machinery to pay the outstanding pension, gratuities and harmonization arrears.
In related development students of Federal Polytechnic, Nekede and Federal University of Technology Owerri took to the streets, same day protesting against the deplorable condition of the roads leading to their schools.
According to Ezekiel Nwankwo, Public Relations Officer of National Association Of Nigerian Students, the students union leaders of both schools had presented their grievances on the bad condition of the roads to their schools, to the Secretary to the Government of Imo State, and Chief of Staff to the Governor on the need to fix Naze, Ihiagwa, Obinze-Nekede and Futo, roads.
According to him, the duo held meetings with them and promised to commence work immediately to no avail. He observed that it is after the expiration of a two week ultimatum that they embarked on the peaceful protest. The quick intervention of a detachment of mobile policemen stopped the protesters from marching to the government house.
It was like a day of protests in Owerri, as workers of Federal Medical Centre Owerri also protested against the planned recall of Dr Mrs Angela Uwakwem, their Medical Director.


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