Drama took centre stage in Imo state on Tuesday when the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Austin Chilakpu, dissociated the Union from a p peaceful protest by pensioners in the state.
he pensioners who staged a peaceful protest through the streets of the state capital, Owerri and ended up at government house, where they register their grievances over several months of unpaid arrears, were granted audience by the Secretary to the Government of Imo State, Chief Cosmas Iwu, who promised that the government would pay them within the week after carrying out data verification of their members.
Chilakpu in a statement on Tuesday that the Union was not in support of protests because the pensioners may unwittingly make themselves vulnerable for infiltration by those who do not mean well for them, adding that the protesters did get approval from neither NLC nor the police to embark on any protests.
He said the NLC has been meeting with the State Government on the pension issue and was aware that there were still a number of contentious entries on the pension payroll which the government is sorting out to ensure a comprehensive clean pensioners’ list. He also said the government has assured Labour that all outstanding pensions will be paid soon.
Mr Oguwike Nwachuku Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to Governor of Imo State, who confirmed this is a statement on Tuesday said Governor Hope Uzodimma has committed to the payment of pensioners in the state.
“The Governor did on Tuesday when a group under the auspices of Imo Pensioners Association led a peaceful protest to the Government House, Owerri, to appeal to Governor Uzodimma to fast-track the processes he has put in place to clear the backlog of pensions being owed them.”
Secretary to the Government of Imo State, Chief Cosmas Iwu, who received the protesters at government house, said the delay in the payment of their pensions was due to discrepancies in their names and challenges relating to payment vouchers.
He said “Governor Uzodimma said discrepancies were discovered in the pension’s payroll system inherited by the current administration. Some pensioners names appeared twice with different amount of money and even BVN numbers.”
He promised that the solution to the problem is almost completed and urged the pensioner to exercise a little more patience so that the problem can be solved once and for all.
Earlier, Leader of the pension association, Comrade Iyke Ohaneje read out a catalogue of the challenges the members have been having as a result of the delay in the payment.
Ohanele stated that many of their members have died and some were still in hospital due to their inability to pay for their health and feeding related matters as a result of non-payment of over five months arrears by the government.
He said they chose the option of the peaceful protest having written several letters to the authorities on the need to invite them for negotiation and clarification on what is actually delaying the payment of their pensions.
According to him 49 of their members have died in the past four months. He appealed to government to see reason to pay them.