Okorocha and Imo pensioners
Sir: It is noteworthy that more than 24 months of pension were accruable to Imo State retirees until recently when the government of Governor Rochas Okorocha pledged to clear 13 months out of the backlog. Afterwards, the government proposed to pay only 40 per cent of the total amount involved due to the ongoing economic downturn but the proposal was rejected by the Imo State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP).
Not minding the refusal, the government went ahead to distribute forms among the pensioners for them to enter into an unconditional undertaking. The form was to persuade the pensioners to accept the proposed 40% payment as well as forfeit the remaining months. The letter meant to be duly signed by each of the recipients reads in part, ‘I do hereby release and discharge the Imo State Government and its agents from all past, present and future liability and from all actions, claims and demands in respect of the said accumulated Pension Arrears.’
The leadership of the state’s NUP had to cry foul, stating that the government never sought their consent before distributing the forms and urged the pensioners to ignore them. But owing to hunger and frustration, most of these senior citizens had already filled the form prior to the arrival of the union’s directive.
The final resolution of the pensioners was that the government should pay any amount or any number of months it could afford and leave the remaining for posterity rather than ask them to sign a ‘death warrant’ against their wish. Perhaps they are trying to avoid following the footsteps of Imo state civil servants.
Some months ago, the leadership of the Imo branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on behalf of the workers signed an agreement with the government accepting to be paid 70 per cent of their monthly wages. Though the step was commendable because it was able to settle the impasse between the two parties, most analysts have argued that the NLC goofed. And right now, the workers, particularly those in the low rungs, are complaining that the 70% is just a peanut.
So, if 70 per cent could be referred to as ‘peanut’ by someone who is still in service, how would a pensioner regard 40 per cent of his/her pension if eventually paid?
However, the governor has succeeded in answering the question. Penultimate week, in his radio broadcast to the people of Imo, while stating that the reason for the 60 per cent cut was due to the astronomical and uncalled rise in the monthly pension for the pensioners, he disclosed that by January 2017 the government would reintroduce the usual 100 per cent payment.
This is commendable. I appeal to those who are yet to sign the undertaking to do so towards settling the impasse. The government on its part should ensure that subsequently dialogue is reached with the leadership of the state’s NUP before any action on the senior citizens is taken by any authority.
Fred Nwaozor, Owerri, Imo State