Retirees in Rivers State have appealed to Governor Nyesom Wike to commence the payment of their gratuities and pension arrears gradually.
According to the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners in the state, Collins Nwonkwo, the pensioners have not been paid since 2014.
The Chairman said, “No gratuities or accumulated arrears have been paid so far except for monthly pension. That one has been on, but all other benefits that we have been protesting for, like gratuities, arrears of pension, harmonisation and other issues have not received any response yet.
“But we are aware that during the last budget presentation by the governor, we saw some of the provisions the governor made for pension matters. But they are just small money in terms of the realities on the ground. This has kept us restrained a bit. We are watching to see if things will improve, but if he keeps delaying, we will react.
“We are more interested in getting payment of gratuities and arrears started. His tenure is ending; he should start the payment and wherever he stops if he cannot clear it, becomes a starting point for the person coming after him.
“For the pension arrears, the months are many. I cannot remember all now but the money involved is much. To be very specific on the total amount, it requires serious mathematics. The issue is that the state government owes us a lot of money in all areas. They have not been paying as I said. We have those who retired since 2014, 2015, in fact, from 2014 till date, those who retired have not been paid.
“They owe us many months of pension arrears that run into billions, so when you are making provisions for paltry sum to service the debt, it does not go anywhere. We believe that he should start paying something rather than nothing. All this while, they have been addressing this thing gradually and that has brought us to where we are now.”
Pleading on behalf of the pensioners, the National President, South-South Youths Initiative, Imeabe Saviour, advised Governor Wike to make effort to pay the retirees and pensioners.
He also condemned the “reckless spending” of Rivers state money by Governor Wike which he does by donating to other states.
He said, “The governor of the state should make deliberate effort to pay our retirees their gratuities and pay pension to our pensioners. We have witnessed repeated protests by these elders who served the state with all their strength and time. It is painful that we still see this class of people on the streets demanding for what belongs to them that should have been paid with ease.
“We condemn in its entirety the idea of reckless spending of Rivers money on other states. This, the governor does in the form of donation to other state governments. Within two years, the governor has donated N1.5 billion to three states. N500,000,000, to Sokoto State, N500,000,000.00 to Benue State and just last week, the governor donated N500 million to Bayelsa State.
“This is happening when our pensioners are protesting, the education system is not functioning well, and the primary healthcare system is going down the drain. We see this as a slap on the people that gave him all the support he needed.”