– Archbishop Obinna consoles retirees as they storm Assumpta Cathedral
After exhausting all avenues to draw the attention of Imo State Government to their plights, pensioners in Imo State on Sunday May 20, stormed Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri to seek spiritual solution.
Welcoming the pensioners to the Cathedral, the Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri consoled them saying, ndonu! Ndi pension ndonu!
The prelate also condoled with them on the death of many of their colleagues who passed on without receiving neither pension nor gratuity. The Archbishop however reminded those alive that “it is God that keeps you alive and not pension.”
In his sermon during the Mass, Archbishop Obinna observed that pensioners are suffering in Imo State and elsewhere because of the natural inclination of some people to acquire so much money and become not just millionaires but trillionaires in both local and foreign currencies.
He appealed to the state Government to address the plights of pensioners and civil servants by using the money accruing to the state to serve the people well. He said some states like Anambra succeeded in this regard and that is why their governor is called “Alert Governor” because by the 25th of every month, pensioners and civil servants start to receive alert for their pensions and salaries.
“We are looking for a leader-servant in Imo State, in the communities and the church,” the Archbishop said, adding that “each and every one of us has a role to play in government, in political parties, in business etc.”
Archbishop Obinna however noted that some of the pensioners especially those who occupied top positions during service, may have contributed to the present condition of Imo Pensioners following the way they carried out their duties while in office – before their retirement. “Did you play your part well for the common good? He asked them.
He said that the pursuit of earthly things is holding us down but the Holy Spirit is coming down to us in a special way so that he can break that bondage.
“If you are in the spirit of God, He will give you power to play your role well, to handle public money without soiling your hands.
“Let us begin to live a new life, life in the spirit and not life in possession that will mislead us.
The Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Imo State had raised the alarm on the alleged plan by the Imo State Government to remove all allowances that form part of pension.
According to them, they went to National Industrial Court to challenge the Imo State Government payment of 40% pensions and forfeiture of 60% and obtained judgment in their favour. The judgment, they explained, stated that “there is no law permitting the Imo State Government to alter or withhold any part of the pension of pensioners in the Public service of Imo State.
The pensioners said the announcement purporting to remove allowances in Pensions amounts to contempt of court and breach of the verdict of the National Industrial Court and absolute ignorance of extant law guiding administration of pension in Nigeria.
They said the allowances are integral part of the pensions and Imo State Government has no right to recalculate/compute the Pension of Imo State Pensioners.
They also described as embarrassing the claim by the Imo State government that it has cleared all pension arrears and gratuities owed to Imo State pensioners. “For the avoidance of doubt the state government is owing Imo Pensioners as follows: Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, 50-90 months; IBC Pensioners – 47-59 months, Civil Service Pensioners including permanent secretaries, 33 months and Retired Primary School Teachers 45-63 months.”