Photos: PENSIONERS PROTEST IN IMO, BLOCK GOVT HOUSE OVER PENSION SLASH, DESCRIBE POLICY AS WICKED, FRAUDULENT
CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA, OWERRI
Vehicular movements and as well as economic activities were on Tuesday brought to a grinding halt, in Owerri, the Imo State capital , following the demonstration embarked by the State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners over the slash of their pension arrears by the State Government.
The State Government is currently distributing what it tagged "pension form", wherein the Retirees are being made to sign an undertaking to accept pension slash of 40 percent.
According to the pension form, the Retirees would forfeit 60 percent of their pension arrears to the Government in view of the current economic recession while take home 40 percent.
But the Pensioners who described the policy as wicked and fraudulent, urged the Governor Rochas Okorocha, led administration to pay them in full.
The ex-Civil Servants who converged on the ever-busy Warehouse junction in Orlu road, Owerri, blocked the major roads, causing heavy traffic gridlock.
They bore placards with inscriptions such as "40-60 percent pension proposal of Imo State Government is fraudulent"; " asking Pensioners to forfeit 60 percent of pension arrears is evil"; "pay the much you can, Government is a Continuum"; "pension is our right and not a gratification"; "pension is the first charge in the budget"; "Rochas don't impose your forged letter on the Pensioners".and many more.
The protesting Pensioners who marched from the Warehouse Junction, singing songs of solidarity, preventing free flow of traffic within the metropolis, assembled at the Government house roundabout, blocking all entries leading in and out of the Government house in anger.
Addressing his colleagues, the Chairman of NUP in the State, Gideon Ezeji, said that the Government is owing civil Pensioners 22 months pension arrears, Local Government retirees 23 months; retired Primary school Teachers 32 months; Imo Broadcasting Corporation Pensioners 43 months; retired Permanent Secretaries 22 months; and Alvan Ikoku Pensioners 77 months.
The Chairman said "all the efforts to make Imo State Government treat the Pensioners humanely has proved abortive. The latest Government move is to pay 40 percent of the accumulated pension arrears and to forfeit 60 percent. The Government is now using its agents to force the gullible Pensioners sign the document it prepared".
Ezeji, who described the letter as an illegal document, explained that once any Retiree signs it, he automatically forfeits 60 percent of the pension arrears.
"If you sign the document Imo State Government is circulating, you have discharged the Imo State Government and his agents from all past, present, and future liabilities and from all actions, claims and demands in respect of the said accumulated pension arrears. The Government ill-conceived document is meant to deny us of our accumulated arrears of pensions".
The Chairman who said that the retirees have totally rejected the 40 percent payment of their arrears of pensions by the government, called on the Government to pay them 100 percent before December 23rd.
As of the time of filing this report, the enraged Pensioners were yet to vacate the roads leading in and out of the Government house which they barricaded.