Entrance to the Delta state government house was on Tuesday under lock and key as local government retirees under the contributory pension scheme protested against years of indebtedness by the Delta state government. At the government house, the protesters met a heavy barricade of stern looking policemen who prevented them from gaining access into the government house.
The retirees who were clad in black, symbolising mourning, matched through major streets in Asaba, beginning from Labour House, hosting the office of the Nigerian Labour Congress through to the state house of assembly complex and berthing at the gate to the state government house where they were resisted by policemen on duty. The police mounted their vehicles at the gate.
Some of the protesting retirees shared bitter tales of woes, for having retired from active service for years, they have not been paid a dime from the year they left the service of the government. Some told our reporter that they retired since 2014 but have neither been paid gratuity nor pensions.
The pensioners are angry because the objective of setting up the contributory pension scheme is being defeated by the action of the Delta state government and its officials who are responsible for the welfare of the aged and senior citizens.
In a protest letter made available to Emerald News, one of the objectives of the contributory pension scheme is to ensure that employees save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age and to ensure that pensioners are not subjected to untold hardship after retirement from service. But the government has reportedly refused to pay them the money they contributed while in active service.
Arising from the action of government and the conditions surrounding the retirees, the objective of the contributory pension scheme has been roundly defeated. Many die in the course of pursuing their pension emoluments and gratuities.
In the protest letter addressed to the governor, Dr. Ifeanti Okowa and Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, the protesting retirees alleged that all the money sent to the local governments by the federal government to pay their retirees from the month of June 2019 till date has been withheld by the executives of the Association of Local Governments (ALGON) in Delta state.
In the letter which was signed by Chief Mrs. Ejieh Helen and Prince Etuwede GU, chairman and secretary respectively of Association of Contributory Retirees (ACR), the retirees demand for the payment of primary school retirees gratuity and pensions from 2014 till 2019.
They also demand that the governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, should compel the state leadership of ALGON to pay the sum of N5.9billion unremitted deductions that accrued during the zero allocation era to the local government bureau.
The pensioners said the payment of the N5.9billion will go a long way in liquidating the existing indebtedness of the N48.369billion being owed by the state government.
The retirees said some of their members have stayed up to seven years after retirement without payment saying the development has led to the death of many of their members while others are passing through hard times.
They said they have written series of letters and exhausted all peaceful processes to ensure that their gratuities and pensions were paid but all letters and meetings have yielded no results, hence the last resort to protests to press home their demands.