Okafor Ofiebor /Port Harcourt
Hundreds of pensioners in Rivers State in the early hours of Wednesday stormed the State Secretariat Complex in Port Harcourt to protest against the Rivers State Government for its refusal to pay them their pensions and gratuities, amounting to over N70 billion.
They lashed out at the government under the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike for not taking the issue of their indebtedness as a priority.
They lamented that even though Wike had been garnering numerous awards for bearing the sobriquet “Mr Project” for executing numerous infrastructure in the state but has failed woefully for not remembering senior citizens like them who have toiled for over 30 years of their lives serving the state with nothing to show.
The Spokesperson for the pensioners, Mr Lucky Ati, said that the state government was owing over 2, 000 pensioners under the Contributory Pension Scheme in an excess of of N70 billion.
Ati warned those still in service that: “We are suffering from the non-payment of our legitimate entitlements and you people still in service are behaving as if the issue does not matter and because it does not concern you now. Don’t worry about it now. You will soon join us and lament with us.”
He alleged that despite the fact that the retirees had their contributions deducted from their salaries when they were in service, the Contributory Scheme providers were refusing to pay them.
“All we want now is that the Contributory Pension Law be abrogated. It is suffocating us, many of us have died out of penury. Some of us are diabetic and suffering from all manner of diseases. Is it a crime to serve the state for 33 years and above?” They lamented.
In response to the pensioners, Mr. Rufus Godwin, who addressed the pensioners, said the state government inherited arrears of salaries owed to civil servants when Governor Wike came into power.
“From what I can gather, from you protest, you’re demanding that the Contributory Pension Law be abrogated. But I should make it clear that since 2009, the previous administration never contributed its own counterpart funds to the scheme, thus making it difficult for this administration.”
He promised to take their demands to the governor for his attention.
” You have every right to a peaceful protest to press home your demands. This is the right way to make your demands. I will table your demands before the Governor,” Godwin assured.