Court fixes May 23 for hearing between retirees and Imo government over alleged pensions cuts
An Owerri, Imo State based Industrial Court, presided over by Justice Olufunke Y. Anuwe, on Friday fixed for hearing, May 23, 2017, a suit filed by the Imo state civil service retirees under the aegis Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), challenging the alleged ‘’withholding and slashing’’ of their pensions by the Imo State Government.
The case with the number NICN/OW/144/2017, had been brought before the court last month but was adjourned to Friday, April 28 in granting request by the state government’s counsel to enable him reply reliefs to his client.
When the matter was mentioned on Friday, counsel to the complainants, Wisdom Durueke complained that he was only served the defendant’s complete processes that morning in court. He also alleged that the state government had made an attempt to coerce his clients/ applicants.
His word: ‘’If we had their complete address yesterday, we would have done everything possible to file it and the matter would have gone on”, and thereby requested for an extension of time to respond to the address.
Durueke also complained what he regarded as disturbing act perpetrated by the state government, moving with papers asking some retirees to sign, dissociating themselves from the suit: “The government has brought papers going round and promising some pensioners of two additional payment of their pensions if they sign to dissociate themselves with the suit against government”. Defendants’ Counsel and Solicitor General of the State /Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Justice, Mrs. A. N. Eluwa, in her submission, argued that she had asked for extension of time, which the court granted it and gave them 14 days to file further affidavits and reply on points of law.
The matter was later adjourned to May 23 for further hearing.In the originating summons, Durueke had filed, asking that the state government acted unconstitutional by asking the claimants to fill a form forfeiting their pensions by 60 per cent and 40 per cent respectively according to categories, urging the court to set aside the letter/form prepared and distributed by the Imo State government by the directive of Governor Rochas Okorocha, addressed to the Accountant-General and entitled ‘`Letter of Set off in Respect of my Outstanding Pension Arrears’’, reducing the pensions of the senior citizens last December.
Based on the development, some retirees collected the said percentage pensions but later protested against it on the state.Okorocha said the payment cuts was what he called “payable pensions of Imo formula’’, arguing that it was burdensome for the state to pay N1.5 billion monthly to pensioners, whereas the state government receives little above N2 billion from the federal allocation.