Hundreds of pensioners in Benin on Thursday stormed Edo State Government House to protest non-payment of pension arrears ranging from five to 42 months.
The pensioners were seen carrying placards with inscriptions such as “EFCC come and rescue Edo pensioners”; “Gov. Obaseki pay pensioners their pension arrears”; “Mr. Governor use the N11.38 billion bailout funds to pay pensioners”; and “Oga Governor please pay all our entitlement to Edo state and Local Government Pensioners”.
The pensioners’ spokesman, Mr. Gabriel Osemwenkhai, told newsmen that some of the pensioners now sleep in churches.
Osemwenkhai said that the pensioners need their entitlement to pay their children’s school fees.
He alleged that some of the local government pensioners had not been enrolled into the state pension scheme, while others had died as a result of hardship.
He urged Governor Godwin Obaseki to emulate other states who had used bailout funds to pay their senior citizens.
Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Philip Shaibu, who addressed the protesting pensioners, lauded the peaceful manner of the protest. He said that some of the issues raised by the pensioners have been received and measures already being put in place to address them.
In January, pensioners in Imo State also protested the continued refusal by Governor Rochas Okorocha to pay them their pensions which ranged between 22 and 77 months in arrears.
Led by their state chairman, Chief Gideon Ezeji, the pensioners urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call Okorocha to order, saying he behaves disrespectfully and treats senior citizens in the state in a deplorable manner.
According to Mr.Ezeji,”Okorocha derives joy in seeing elders in this state coming out from time to time to the streets to ask for their pension. What did Okorocha do with the bailout fund that President Buhari gave to him? We are protesting for the third time.” The latest development, which they described as ”wicked of Okorocha’s government is the plan to pay 40 percent of the accumulated arrears and gratuities and forfeit of 60 percent. We
The latest development, which they described as sheer wickedness was the plan to pay 40 percent of the accumulated arrears and gratuities and forfeit 60 percent.
“We say no to this latest government plan to deny us the payment of 60 percent of arrears up to December,” the pensioners said.
Reacting to the allegation, the Imo State government said the issue of pensions in the state had been resolved, claiming that those who protested at the Government House, were not pensioners.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Rochas Okorocha, Sam Onwuemeodo read: “No pensioner in the state was part of that protest. Those involved in the exercise were between the ages of 40-45. And we challenge those involved to prove us wrong by publishing their names, their autonomous communities, local government areas, years of retirement, where they retired from and their identification numbers.
“The truth of the matter as it concerns the issue of pensions in the state is that more than 99 percent of the pensioners in the state have been paid arrears of their pensions up to December 2016. The remaining one percent are pensioners who were omitted in the first payment exercise and they are at the moment receiving their cheques.