Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Retired civil servants from the five states of the south-east under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Pensions (NUP) Wednesday in Enugu took a swipe at the governors of the zone over backlogs of pension arrears and gratuities running into billions of naira owed them, warning that except urgent steps were taken to address the problems, hundreds of them would be dropping dead as a result of hardship.
Already they disclosed that countless number of their members have already died as a result of hunger, while family members live in abject poverty as a result of non-payment of their entitlements by the government “which we served meritoriously.”
The pensioners who addressed newsmen in Enugu accused all the governors of the zone with the exception of Anambra State of owing them gratuities for 15 years, while in some states backlog of pensions have risen to close to 72 months.
While alleging that Imo and Abia States had not paid gratuities since 1998 and 1999 respectively, the pensioners said whereas the constitution stipulated that that workers salaries and pensions be treated on first charge of the consolidated revenue, the federal and state governments in the country have consistently violated that section of the constitution.
The pensioners who spoke through their National Vice President, South-east zone, Dr Emeka Onwumere and Zonal chairman, South-east, Comrade C. N. Udensi said while other governors in the zone are showing some signs of readiness to “do something” on the issue, Governor Rochas Okorocha and Okezie Ikpeazu of Imo and Abia States have paid deaf ears to their plights.
“Our situation has become so bad that these people don’t even consider us as breathing human beings. Okorocha before his second term bid pampered us so much apparently to enlist our support to the extent that before the election, we were just being owed two months pension arrears. But, immediately after his election, he has totally avoided us. He used us to win his election and after the election, he discarded us. We were clearly deceived.
“In the case of Abia State, its quite lamentable. Abia has a monthly wage bill of not more than N350 million and yet the governor has clearly treated us with levity and wants us to maybe die as some of our members have already died as a result of sufferings, hardship and poverty. Today, we couldn’t even afford to put on a good cloth. What we are wearing here are cloths we wore during burial ceremonies in our respective communities . That’s how bad the situation has become,” they noted.
They therefore asked the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to without further delay order a nationwide industrial action in sympathy with the pensioners noting that the obvious silence of the labour congress was not going down well with them.
“They should know that the fact you are active today is not an indication that you will be strong and active tomorrow. We were like them before we got to this point. Those active ones today will become pensioners by tomorrow, “ they said.