Pensioners in Abia State today Thursday 29, 2019 held a peaceful protest against the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu led administration over non-payment of their pensions arrears of 32 months, and some for 23 months.
The pensioners numbering over 500 were clad in all black on black attire as they marched through major streets in Umuahia the state capital singing and chanting anti-Governor Ikpeazu slogans before terminating at Government House, Umuahia.
They started out their protest from the Old Abia Tower, to the sub treasury through Federal Medical Centre and to government house where they were addressed by the Secretary to the State Government, Barr Chris Nzem. The pensioners operated under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Abia State even though the union is divided against its leadership.
Speaking with the NewsCritic online, one of the leaders of the NUP said they are holding a peaceful protest because of the state government failure to pay their pensions arrears which have run into 32 months and some 23 months’ arrears as the case might be. They said that before leaving office to become a senator, Chief T. A Orji was owing pensioners four months arrears, while Governor Ikpeazu took it to 32 months, describing the development as unacceptable.
It was also gathered from the pensioners that their gratuity has not be paid for 19 years in Abia state, while the state government is alleged to be mismanaging allocations and Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, that accrues to the state. They said they have suffered so much in the hands of an insensitive government of Abia.
On the committee set up by the Abia state government to look into the issues of salaries of parastatals and pensions, the NUP described it as a delay tactics and unnecessary. “It shows that the commissioner for Finance and government is incompetent. It is the same committee they used to deceive us before. The governor has the power to direct them to pay us and they are busy distinguishing between ministries and parastatals.
“So as pensioners where do we belong, he inherited four months and took it to 36 months for what, one of the pensioners asked fuming with anger.
NewsCritic learnt that the pensioners were billed to have protested two weeks back but could not do so because their leadership kept assuring them that the government was doing something, which they said is not true.
During the protest that lasted four hours, the NUP were escorted by police patrol team which ensured there was no breakdown of law and order in the process. Recall that during the May Day workers celebration, the pensioners disrupted the activities at the Ibeku High School, Umuahia over unpaid pensions.