Chidiebube Okeoma, Owerri
Pensioners in Imo State on Tuesday took to the streets of Owerri, the state capital, protesting the state government’s non-payment of their pensions and gratuities since February.
Barring placards with various inscriptions depicting their plights, the retirees accused the governor Hope Uzodinma led administration of insensitivity.
The pensioners who wanted to invade the state government house were, however, resisted by security men who formed a barricade.
Unable to access the government house, the pensioners, blocked the state government house roundabout, preventing movements in and out of the government house.
Briefing journalists, Mr Iyke Ohaneje, who introduced himself as Chairman, Imo State Pensioners Intervention Committee, said that all efforts the association made to receive their pensions and gratuities had been frustrated by the office of the accountant general of the state.
He said that as of the last count, 42 pensioners had died as a result of their inability to take care of their welfare because of the non-payment of their pensions.
Ohaneje said, ” We are not here to protest. We have come to beg for alms from the people of Imo State hence the government has refused to pay us our pensions since February. We are not begging the government for any money. We are asking the government to pay us our pension which is money we earned.
“As at the last count, 42 members of this association have died of hunger, excluding the ones in the rural areas. Government agents have frustrated every move we had made to get our pensioners paid to us.
“Just the other day, a Civil Defence officer at the accountant general’s office shot at us while we went to demand our pensions. He shot at us because he has a small gun whereas this is an officer who is supposed to be civil.
“We have written to everybody, including journalists, lawyers, Bishops, asking them to prevail on the state government to pay us our pensions and gratuities.
When contacted, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on media, Modestus Nwamkpa, said that the pensioners would soon be paid.
He said that taking to the streets won’t solve the situation, asking the senior citizens to be patient with the government.