Scores of unpaid pensioners in Edo State Monday resumed their protest to call the attention of the state government to the non payment of their pension arrears and gratuity.
The protesters who wore red attires, blocked the popular Oba Ovoramwen Square (Ring Road), as they sang solidarity and derogatory songs against Governor Godwin Obaseki. The protesters caused vehicular and human traffic in the area, forcing vehicles to use alternative roads.
Leader of the protesters, Barr. Gabriel Osemwekhai, said they resumed their protest when it became apparent that the state governor, Godwin Obsseki, was not willing to use the Paris Club refund money to pay their pension arrears and gratuity.
He said they were afraid that if the money from the Paris Club refund was not disbursed for the purpose for which it was meant, it could be diverted into some other uses or unaccounted for.
“The latest development is that we have not heard form the government. We have protested times without number. This is the 13th time we are coming out to protest in respect of the non-payment of our arrears and gratuity.
“As a matter of fact, the money is available, it has been given to the State government to be disbursed to pensioners and ever since the money came, Edo state Governor has kept mute, he has been silent over the disbursement. He has never given a dime to pensioners from the Paris Club refund.
“That is the money the federal government brought with specific instructions that it should pay all arrears and gratuity. But this man has turned dear ears to the president’s instruction. We don’t know if it is because he is governor of the ruling party. We don’t know if that is why he has remained obstinate.
“President Muhammadu Buhari himself called all the traditional rulers when he returned from his sick leave. He told them that he is disappointed with some governors. Our own governor is the only one who has not come out to say this is how much I am going to bring out for the pensioners, ” he said.
Osemwekhai disclosed that pensioners in the state were owed between five and 42 months pension arrears, gratuity for local government pensioners from 2008 till date and for the state pensioners, it is from 2012 till date.
He said the money recently paid to pensioners by the state government is the money being owed the local government pensioners.
“It is the two months pension he is owing them that was paid. The amount for one month is N220 million, and he paid for two months successively. But he did not bring out any money from the Paris Club refund.
“We were privileged to meet him on May Day at Samuel Ogbamudia Stadium where he came out unequivocally to say that he is going to pay all outstanding arrears and gratuity. We jubilated, we commended him and went away. But in the month of June, this man reneged and said he is not going to pay. There are video clips to show that he actually made the promise.
“Our demand is that he should pay us all our pension arrears and gratuity because it’s the gratuity that will enable us to start new life after disengaging from government service. Most of us don’t have houses of our own, we are still in rented apartments. From time to time, we still have to continue to appeal to our landlords.
“About 37 of our members have lost their lives between 2014 till date. They died young, not because of old age, but because they could not afford to pay hospital bills. You can see one woman sitting down on wheel chair. She is more or less like a beggar.
“We’ve been making personal appeal to this governor, but we don’t really know where he keeps the money. We’ve been hearing speculation that he is about to pay, that something is being done. That is why we suspended our protest. But when nothing was forthcoming, that is why we came out today,” Osemwekhai said.