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Pensioners protest against unpaid gratuities, others in Edo, Cross River

By Michael Egbejule (Benin City) and Anietie Akpan (Calabar)
12 October 2021   |   3:47 am
Pensioners, yesterday, protested against Edo and Cross River states’ failure to settle their unpaid gratuities, improved welfare and non-harmonisation of pensions.

Pensioners, yesterday, protested against Edo and Cross River states’ failure to settle their unpaid gratuities, improved welfare and non-harmonisation of pensions.

The protesters besieged major streets of Benin City, carrying various placards with inscriptions as: We Shall Overcome; Pensioners Need Gratuity To Take Care Of Our Health And Families; Pay Our Gratuity And Harmonise Our Monthly Pension, among others.

Dressed in black attires, the retirees blocked all adjoining roads linking the city centre, thereby disrupting human and vehicular traffic within and around the Kings Square, popularly called Ring Road in Benin City.

One of the retirees collapsed during the protest and was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital for medical attention.

The senior citizens, who are members of the Association of Retired Civil Servants Welfare of Nigeria (ARCSWON), Edo State chapter, lamented that inflation and rising cost of living had depleted their allowances.

Spokesman for the pensioners, Yusuf Bako, who rejected illegal deductions from their monthly pensions, urged the state government to urgently effect harmonisation due to the falling value of the Naira.

Bako, who is a former chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servants in the state, cautioned that government’s failure to meet their demands, would lead to sustained protests.

He added that the first issue was that of gratuity, saying that since 2012, the state government pensioners had not received their gratuities, while local government employees were being owed since 2008.

Representative of the Edo State Pensions Bureau, Osaro Washington, who addressed the pensioners, assured that all hands were on deck to address the issues raised by the retirees, adding: “We have directed that the one percent deduction should be put on hold until further notice.

“We are not owing pensioners, they are only demanding their gratuity. We have told them that the payment will be done as soon as possible and we are meeting with all stakeholders on the issue.”

ALSO, Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Andrew Emwanta, refuted claims that the state government was owing retirees, insisting that the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government would continue to show commitment towards the welfare of pensioners.

MEANWHILE, the Cross River chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JNC), have mobilised their members for strike beginning from today.

Consequently, all civil servants in the state have been asked to stay away from work till further notice, as retired public servants had not received their gratuities since 2012 and 2014.

The unions also complained that no remittance had been made to banks after deductions by government, just as the state government had ignored several other issues, as notification letter addressed to Governor Ben Ayade, yesterday, indicated.

The letter, which was signed by NLC Chairman, Ben Ukpebi, his TUC and TNC counterparts,Monday Ogbodum Godwin Otei, said the strike had become inevitable, as the state government had ignored reminders and ultimatums, insisting that industrial action was their last resort.