Socio-economic activities were brought to a standstill in Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Tuesday, when pensioners took to the streets to protest deductions in their monthly pensions.
Clutching various placards, some of which read, “Okorocha, pay us our pension when we are still alive,” “Imo pensioners say no to 40% payment,” the pensioners barricaded the entrance to the Imo State House.
The protest, which started as early as 8am, saw the aggrieved pensioners turning back bullion vans and pelting government vehicles with water sachets.
The leader of the pensioners, Gideon Ezeji, noted that the state government owed his members arrears of pensions ranging from 24 to 72 months.
He also explained that the motive of the protest was to reject the planned payment of 40 per cent of arrears owed by the state government out of the total money owed.
He said, “We will not accept 40 per cent; this is not fair to senior citizens who have sacrificed all their entire lives working for the state. We are going to continue with this protest until the government rescinds its decision and pay us our full entitlements.”
Governor Rochas Okorocha had earlier appealed to the senior citizens to see reasons with him on why he could not pay up all the pension arrears owed by the state.
According to him, civil servants’ wage bill rose astronomically during his administration, adding that the number of pensioners had also gone up.
The governor had said that pensioners between Grade Levels 1-6 would get 100 per cent payment of their accrued pensions while pensioners who retired on Grade Level 7-14 would receive 40 per cent of their accrued pensions.
He gave the clarification in a press statement he issued through his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, shortly after the pensioners protested in the state.