Hundreds of retired pension protesters has matched in protest to the Akwa Ibom state Government House, through Wellington Bassey Road to decry their agony for non-payment of gratuities by the state government.
The Local Government pensioners said they have suffered immense hardships as a result of non-release of their pension funds since they retired.
Mr. Effanga Ettah who is the state chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners solicited with Akwa Ibom state Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, to approve the release of payment of pensioners’ gratuity since 2012.
He emphasized that pensioners in the local governments had also not received their monthly pensions since March, this year. In his statements, he said the pensioners always wait for months before their monthly pension is paid. This, he said, is due to the poor funding of the Local Government Pensions Board and the arrears amounting to millions of naira is still pending.
Ettah appealed to the governor to approve payment of the arrears and money for dead pensioner’s next of kin.
He explained that even the monthly meeting of the Joint Accounts Committee had failed to allocate funds for the payment of pensioners’ entitlement.
One of the pension protesters, Mrs. Elizabeth Udo, told our correspondents that Governor Emmanuel, who marked his 50th birthday anniversary on Monday, ignored them as they gathered at the Government House.
She said the attitude of the governor was unbecoming, noting that they (the pensioners) would not leave the Government House until Emmanuel address them.
Emmanuel had on Sunday donated N5 million to the United Evangelical Church (aka Qua Iboe), Eket. The governor, who was in the church at the instance of his Special Adviser on Religious Matter, Rev. Daniel Akwatang, stated that his donation was not government money.
In response to the protesters’ request, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Victor Antai, said that the allocation from the Federal Government was not enough to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ monthly entitlements.
He claimed that government was not unaware of the plight of pensioners in the state, especially those in the local governments, added that due to financial difficulties, the state government could not fulfill most of its obligations. Mr. Antai therefore appealed to pensioners to bear with government as efforts were in top gear to alleviate their plight.
It was recalled that on assumption of office, May 29, 2015, Governor Emmanuel paid a 10-year backlog of pensions and gratuities to both the teachers and local government employees in the state.
This as stated on Monday by the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Ekerete Udoh, was to remind the pension protesters of the efforts made by Emmanuel to resolve problems of the state.