From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha and four of his aides have been dragged to the National Industrial Court by the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Imo State chapter, for allegedly withholding and slashing of their monthly pensions.
The claimants and three of its officials: Messrs Gideon Ezeji, Livinus Ashiegbu and Fabian Agba want the court to declare unconstitutional, a letter issued to Imo pensioners by the state government slashing their monthly pensions by 60 per cent.
The originating summons filed at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Owerri Judicial Division, marked NICN/OW/144/2017, which contained claims and other facts of the suit was made available to Daily Sun yesterday.
NUP pointed out that section 210(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) states that pensioners in Imo public service, including the second to fourth claimants have right to pension.
They are praying the court to declare that Okorocha acted unconstitutionally when he slashed the accrued sums due to the pensioners in the public service of Imo by 60 per cent.
The claimants want the court to set aside the letter/form prepared by Imo government under Okorocha, addressed to the Accountant-General and entitled “Letter of Set off in Respect of my Outstanding Pension Arrears.”
The pensioners demanded the court to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, by themselves, representatives, successors or whatsoever name called from implementing, executing the content of the said letter/form.
Ezeji, the Imo NUP state chairman explained that the union approached the court as the last resort, adding, “we have exhausted all avenues for a peaceful resolution of this matter, yet nothing meaningful came out of our efforts for Okorocha to do the needful.
“The leadership of NUP oppose the slashing of the meagre money we receive as monthly pension because our governor publicly said that there is no economic recession in Imo and his lifestyle and that of his appointees support that position.
“It will be an aberration for the state that is economically buoyant to trick its pensioners into forfeiting their legitimate pension which the state government had refused to review upward for more than 10 years now and so, we want the court to interpret the relevant sections of the constitution,” he said.
Ezeji said hearing on the suit has been fixed for Tuesday April 4, 2017, saying “pensioners will attend the court sitting in Owerri in their numbers next Tuesday in spite the failing health of some members who are now owed about three years pension arrears.”