Hundreds of Local Government Pensioners in Akwa Ibom State on Monday protested against non-payment of their gratuities by the state government.
The protesters, who marched through Wellington Bassey Road to Government House, said they have suffered untold hardships as a result of non-release of their gratuities since they retired.
The state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Mr. Effanga Ettah, asked the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, to approve the release of payment of pensioners’ gratuity since 2012.
Ettah lamented that some pensioners in the 31 local government areas of the state had not received their gratuity, adding that many of the pensioners had died without getting their gratuities.
He noted that pensioners in the local governments had also not received their monthly pensions since March, this year.
“Local government pensioners wait for months before their monthly pension is paid. This is due to the poor funding of the Local Government Pensions Board. The arrears amounting to millions of naira is still pending.
“The union believes that in your good gesture, you will approve the payment of the arrears and money for dead pensioner’s next of kin,” Ettah appealed.
The pensioners’ union leader explained that even the monthly meeting of the Joint Accounts Committee had failed to allocate funds for the payment of pensioners’ entitlement.
A pensioner, Mrs. Elizabeth Udo, told one of our correspondents that the governor, who marked his 50th birthday anniversary on Monday, ignored them as they gathered at the Government House.
She said the attitude of the governor was unbecoming, noting that they (the pensioners) would not leave the Government House until Emmanuel address them.
Emmanuel had on Sunday donated N5m to the United Evangelical Church (aka, Qua Iboe), Eket. The governor, who was in the church at the instance of his Special Adviser on Religious Matter, Rev. Daniel Akwatang, stated that his donation was not government money.
He said, “This is not government money, it is my personal money.”
Responding, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Victor Antai, said that the allocation from the Federal Government was not enough to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ monthly entitlements.
According to him, government was unaware of the plight of pensioners in the state, especially those in the local governments. He added that owing to financial difficulties, the state government could not fulfill most of its obligations.
He appealed to pensioners to bear with government as efforts were in top gear to alleviate their plight.
Responding to the protest, the state government said even though it was solely the responsibility of the local governments to pay their workers and pensioners, it had intervened in the payment of the arrears owed the employees.
A statement on Monday by the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Elkerete Udoh, said Emmanuel had on assumption of office on May 29, 2015 paid a 10-year backlog of pensions and gratuities to both the teachers and local government employees in the state.
“Touched by the gesture and kind-heartedness of the governor, the National Union of Local Government Employees and the teachers’ union had separately written letters of appreciation to Governor Udom Emmanuel, thanking him for his magnanimity,” the statement added.