By Favour Nnabugwu
Retirees in Cross River state today blocked the governor’s office to protest their unpaid Pension and eight years Gratuity .
The pensioners who prevented vehicular movement into the governor’s office said they were tired of hearing stories everytime they asked for their entitlement.
Speaking with Vanguard , Chairman of Nigerian Union of Pensioners,NUP, Calabar branch ,Dr Eyo Eyo said it was quite unfortunate the way retirees were being treated since July 2013 .
His words :” It will interest you to know that many of us have not received our gratuity as far back as July 2013 .
“Many of us were last paid pension in 2020 , while some 99 percent of us are being owed since September ,we don’t understand the logic behind selective payment of pension and gratuity .
“Interestingly , many of the pensioners collect as low as 4,000 ,some get 7,500 while others get a little above 15,000 to 20000 which is amongst the highest ,why are they still being owed .
“We have appealed severally to government and at this point ,we are tired of writing ,they are claiming that the governor is not aware of our plight ,well we have brought ourselves to his door post ,we need money for upkeep ,many have died ,countless are bedridden are are dying daily .
” We are in a sorry situation,look at one of us in the floor ,he just collapsed , because he last had a good meal on Thursday morning , we have written countless letters to the governor through Organised Labour ,we decided to come on our own ,to make our position known today.
“We are aware that the governor is having a meeting at the State House of Assembly with some important visitors including governors,Minister but we rather wait at the office for him because we respect him so much ,” he said.
A retiree ,Etinyin Francis Henshaw who said their condition has become appalling adding that the governor does not have regards for old people as well as senior citizens .
“Many of the people I retired with are either dead or bedridden ,I’m greatful to be alive and healthy, the way we are being treated is so unfair , we can no longer bear it anymore,”he said .
Addressing the retirees , Permanent Secretary , Governor’s Office( Special Duties), Dr Alfred Mboto said it was unfortunate that the situation has degenerated like this .
Mboto said : “I came and saw you my mothers and my fathers. Truly speaking I know that you had wanted to see the the Governor directly, but right now as we speak, he is in a meeting at the house of Assembly.
“Truly I have seen your plight, and I can say that No body will see this and not understand that you are in pain. But I am assuring you that we will do everything possible to address your demands. The issue of pension affects all of us, I have how many years now, and I will join you people.
“And so, anybody who is this way and is not supporting the payment of retirees entitlements, I do not think that person is reasonable.The Truth is that government is doing everything possible to make sure that the pension and gratuities are paid,” Mboto said.
Meanwhile ,one of the retirees who slumped during the protest could not be revived ,he was however rushed to the hospital by Permanent Secretary ,Dr Alfred Mboto for further treatment.
Findings show that the present money owed pensioners in gratuity currently stands at 47billion naira which includes pensioners at both Local Government and State Civil Service .
Further findings also revealed that over 70 percent of the workforce in Cross River would be retiring in 2023 which further deepens the debt burden of the retirees .
In a related development ,Organised Labour has vowed to make sure workers remain at home until government begins implementation of all that will be agreed on by both parties ( Government & Organized Labour) as the strike enters day 24.