From CHUKS ONUOHA, Umuahia
Abia Pensioners, numbering over 300 aged men and women barricaded the old tower point of Aba Road, yesterday near the Nigerian Union of Journalists’(NUJ) office, which is a stone’s throw from the office of State Pension Board, along Bende Road, protesting non-payment of their pensions and gratuities for many months .
The protests took many hours as motorists were held in traffic as the pensioners were going round the tower in a ritualistic manner . Thier conditions looked so pitiable that even the policemen, who were sent to disperse them could not utter a word, but looked on until they were done. They painted a picture of a people depraved and denied as many of them who walked round the tower looked weak. They were demanding for the payment of their gratuities as well as pensions from the state government whom they alleged had not been fair to them.
They decried that their members were dying as a result of lack of care due to non-availability of fund to take care of themselves at their age, having wasted their vibrant lives for the state. A spokesperson of the pensioners, who who doesn’t want to be named explained that few months ago over 10 pensioners died as result of their inability to procure necessary drugs .
He appealed to the state government to ensure that the welfare of the senior citizens were taken care of since the governor, who retired from the state Civil Service was aware of the difficulties pensioners were facing. But in a swift reaction to the yellings of the pensioners, the Chairman of the State Pensioners Board, Chief Daniel Egboghu said people were dying everywhere , not only pensioners. “After all, if pensioners are dying in the state, they are not the only ones dying, death is everywhere,” Egbogu said. Another pensioner, who was carrying green leaves like others, which indicated anger, was shaking as he walked along with others during the protest.
He lamented that the state government was owing him payment of six months. Egbeogu said, “There are a lot of ghost pensioners in the system and that is why the state government has set up a committee to verify the genuine pensioners before payments are made. “As I speak with you, the panel is in Isukwuato Local Government council to fish out ghost pensioners, that is why there is delay in payment but as soon as Governor Orji returns from Aba I would convey the message that Abia pensioners barricaded Aba Road protesting the non-payment of the pension,” Egbeogu promised. “ I retired from Abia State Local Government system as a teacher since two years ago, my pension and other entitlement are yet to be paid to me .
As you are looking at me now, I am feeling sick and I need money to seek medical assistance but I cannot get it from any where. Now the state I spent my life for does not care, what can I do, “ he qurried. Ealier Egbeogu had expressed regret over the action of the pensioner but maintained that for 2012 the state government had released over 100 million to off -set the bills of the pensioners. “There is a shortfall in the revenue accruable to the state from the federation account but as soon as funds are available we would pay the pensioners, after all if pensioners are dying in the state it is not only them that are dying, death is everywhere”.
According to him, “There is a lot of ghost pensioners in the system and that is why the state government has set up a committee to verify the genuine pensiones before payments are made. “As I speak with you, the panel is in Isukwuato Local Government council to fish out ghost pensioners, that is why there is delay in payment but as soon as Governor Orji returns from Aba I would convey the message that Abia pensioners barricaded Aba road protesting for the non-payment of the pension” Egbeogu promised.