Aggrieved pensioners in Abia State yesterday took to the streets to protest backlog of pension arrears which according to them “is now running into many years.”
The pensioners who converged at the Catholic Church Bende Road Umuahia before proceeding on the peaceful protest also passed vote of no confidence on the Chief Chukwuemeka Udensi – led leadership of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners ( NUP) in the state for alleged complacency and ineptitude.
Spokesman of the aggrieved retirees and former Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Abia State chapter, Dr. Emmanuel Okparanta, decried government’s insensitivity over the plight of pensioners in the state but blamed the NUP leadership for its failure to engage government over the welfare of the senior citizens.
He accused the Udensi-led NUP state executive of docility and hobnobbing with government for pecuniary interests instead of pursuing the collective welfare of pensioners who ” are wallowing in penury”.
Okparanta also accused the Udensi-led executive of running the union as a ” private enterprise”, saying the leadership is not in touch with pensioners in the state.
Addressing newsmen at the premisses of the state Local Government Service Commission, Okparanta said the leadership of NUP in the state was a total disappointment to pensioners and should quit for failing to live up to their mandate.
He said the aggrieved pensioners had gone to the secretariat of NUP to register their grievances but was told the leadership was holding meeting at the LGA Service Commission premises hence ” we have come to look for them here but they have disappeared”.
” Abia pensioners are owed pensions and gratuities running into several years and this has brought untold hardship to us and the state council of NUP is doing nothing about it”, he lamented.
Continuing, he said it was embarrassing that for the past four years, the NUP leadership in the state had not been able to book appointment with the Governor to discus the welfare of pensioners.
He said that the ” NUP exco has turned their office into bedrooms where they sleep while pensioners are languishing in hardship and penury”.
Later in an interview, one of the pensioners, Rev. Lawrence Nwoko, 79, who retired from the Ministry of Works said that he was owed seven months arrears in 2015, eight months in 2017, and yet to be paid any dime in 2018.
Similarly, Mrs. Rosemary Nwoko, who said she was being owed for 12 months lamented that life had since become uninspiring and a burden for her.
Lamenting his ordeals also, Mr. Osondu Ndubuisi who retired from the Hospital Management Board said he was owed for 12 years, and called for government quick intervention to avoid early grave of more pensioners in the state.