It was another day of rage by some senior citizens in Edo State on Wednesday as they protested non-payment of their pension arrears and gratuities for several years, as well as the non-harmonization of their monthly pay.
The pensioners, in their large numbers, comprising retirees from the state civil service, and the service of the 18 local government councils, stormed the city centre otherwise known as Oba Ovonranmwen Square, to express their grievances thereby disrupting free flow of traffic in all adjoining roads and streets.
But the state government in its reaction, called for calm by the pensioners, stating that it was committed to resolving the issues.
Brandishing placards with various inscriptions, the angry pensioners, as early as 7 am, seized the city centre, turning back motorists, and forcing them to take alternative routes.
Stating their case, the public relations officer, Edo State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, (NUP) Claudette Ehanire, said “we are here today to let the world know of the sufferings of pensioners in the state. I am from the local government. I retired in 2010 and till now, I am yet to get my gratuity. Those who retired before me – 2008, 2009 – have not been paid their gratuity; then talk of those who are just retiring. I retired on Level 15 (8); I am on ₦73,000. My juniors that are retiring now, are on over ₦100,000 to ₦200,000. This is because there is no harmonization.
“We have written several times. The governor set aside some money that they should use to pay local government pension arrears. They started paying from 1982, and grouped us into batches, but not a single batch was cleared, and some they did not pay at all. For state pensioners, the government has paid some backlog for those who retired in 2012. They did screening for them and they collected their pay advice which means as they collect their yellow cards, they pay them their money. But after collecting their yellow cards, they did not credit them. Those who are alive now cannot even fight for it because they have no proof that they have been screened; this is since 2017”.
Another senior citizen, Ayeye Francis, said he retired in the year 2000 on Level 7 and has been on ₦9,000 monthly. He lamented that because of non-harmonization, somebody who retired on grade level 3, receives over ₦28,000 monthly.
The state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu who addressed the enraged pensioners at the Ring Road after meeting with their leaders, assured that all issues would be cleared once an agreement had been reached with the leadership of their association.
Shaibu noted that the state government had kept faith with its obligation to pensioners in the state by ensuring regular payment of pensions, and assure that all other lingering issues would be addressed accordingly.
According to him, “We have addressed the issue of pensions. We have been having issues on how to resolve the challenge with the payment of gratuities. We have agreed that the Head of Service Committee will continue with the discussion on how to resolve the issue.
“We have checked the issues with harmonization. We want to pay, but we are addressing issues of how to raise the funds. We have been on the issue for some time. There is also the issue of when to start from…Just like we addressed the issue of pension, which we have resolved, we will also resolve this issue. We will not say because there’s a protest, we will now rush things. We want to ensure that timelines and modalities are agreed upon so that we will not tell you what we cannot do. We will agree and we will stick to our agreement.”
The deputy governor noted that the committee set up to address the issue would meet with government representatives to ensure that a realistic timeline was fixed to resolve the issues.