…Demand Payments of Long Standing Gratuities.
By Miracle Enuji
Over 500 Pensioners in Delta State today took to the streets in the State Capital, Asaba, protesting against the non-payment of their retirement benefits by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa since the inception of his administration.
The retirees under the aegis of the Association of Contributory Retirees (ACR) who came from the 25 local government areas in the state, converged at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) house in Asaba from where they took their protest to the various arms of the Government in the State Capital.
Arriving at the Government House premises, stern looking Police Men barricaded the entrance of the State House, pushing back the weary pensioners with their guns still hung on their shoulders, thereby stopping the peaceful protesters from achieving their aim of entering into the all-public Delta State government house to see governor Okowa.
While awaiting the arrival of the Governor, the pensioners continued in their solidarity song of “Okowa Pay Our Money, Okowa, Pay Our Money, Okowa”, displaying various placards and banners with inscriptions such as, “Implement Harmonization or Quit Govt. House”, Gov. Okowa For God’s Sake Pay Retirees… We Have Worked For The State”, “Smart Agenda Is A Failure If Pensioners Are Not Paid To Empower Them”, No payment of Contributory Retirees… Get Ready To Vacate Govt. House Come 2019” and Gov. Okowa, you Will Answer the Almighty God For the Souls of The Unpaid Dead Retirees”.
Others were, “Pharaoh of Delta State pay our harmonization”,“Okowa where is the Bailout Fund to Pay Contributory Retirees?”, “The Blood of the Dead Contributory Retirees Are Crying to God For Vengeance”, Dr. Okowa’s Account of the Second Tranche of N10bn Paris Club Loan Refund is a Spurious claim, replete With Manipulation of Figures”, amongst other unprintable write ups.
The protesters were disappointed as Governor Okowa refused physical appearance who rather sent series of emissaries to interact with them. Unsatisfied with the evasiveness of the Governor, the pensioners refused all explanations from the Chief of Staff, Government House, Tam Brisbe, the Attorney General of the State and Commissioner for Justice, Peter Mrakpor and the Head of Service, Reginald Bayoko.
Angered by the continued poor response from Okowa, the women among the protesters took to verbal raining of curse on the Governor, sealing it with green leaves which they threw on the entrance of the government house.
Speaking to the press on behalf of the protesting retirees, the State Vice Chairman of the ACR, Mr. Osanakwu Anthony stated that the Contributory Pension Scheme is a monumental failure in Delta State as the State Government has persistently flaunted the rules of the scheme. “It has refused to pay the mandatory 5% of the monthly wage bill of its employees into the Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund (RBBRF) account with the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2007 to date as stipulated by the pension Reform, Law 2008, thereby causing untold hardship to the generality of the contributory retirees. As such there is no savings to fall back to and so can not pay the retirees and can not issue Retirement Bond Certificates to retirees.”
The Vice Chairman further stated that the delay by Delta State Government in the payment of retirement benefits to contributory retirees who have to wait for 4-6 years is a slap on the senior citizens of the country. He demanded that all payments to retirees under the CPS should be based on the harmonized Pension Reform Law 2008, adding that all Public Service retirees in the state should be reverted to the Pay-As-You-Go pension scheme until the state government is ready for the CPS.
The worn out pensioners who came prepared, ended the 5 hour long protest with a self-sponsored lunch of packaged rice and sachet water to cool off from the struggle of their deserved entitlement. They promised to return more prepared with their husbands, wives and children, with sleeping mattresses for no going back protest if governor Okowa refuses to meet their demands.