Governor Udom Emmanuel’s dream of celebrating his 50th birthday on Monday would have been thwarted if not for his well known punctuality and respect for time, as aggrieved pensioners besieged Barracks road, blocking entrance to the government house shortly after his departure to the event.
Over a thousand pensioners drawn from the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom State took to the streets of Uyo, the state capital blocking the entrance to the governor’s office as they protested non payment of their pensions running into several months.
The aggrieved pensioners included primary school teachers and other categories of retired local government workers bore placards with various inscriptions to indicate that they had not been paid for months, and appealed to Governor Udom Emmanuel to come to their aid.
Effanga Ettah, branch chairman, Nigeria Union of Pensioners, local government branch appealed to the governor to approve the release and payment for gratuity from 2012 till date.“Local government pensioners stay months before their normal monthly pension is paid. This is due to the poor funding to the local government pension board.
“The arrears amounting to millions of naira is still pending. The union believes that in your good gesture, you will approve payment for the arrears and money for dead pensioners’ next of kin,’’ he said.
Local government pensioners, according to him have not been paid their monthly pensions since March 2016, adding that it is different from state pensioners, a development he said has thrown them into untimely grave and turned them into social misfits and as well as make them nuisance to their families.
He however commended the governor for ‘’ an unprecedented act’’ of approving money for the payment of gratuity from 2002 to 2011, adding “We still have retirees not paid from 2012 to date most of them surviving on drugs, living in rented houses, hoping to get their gratuity to put a roof over their heads.’’
It could be recalled that Mr. Victor Attai, commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs had in a recent media interaction hinted that the allocation to local government areas was not enough for the payment of salary and pensioners, saying that some local governments areas not viable in terms of IGR could hardly afford to pay casual laborers. Adding that Governor Udom Emmanuel has been making effort to argument the LG funds and was putting measures in place to alleviate their plight. He maintained however that they would be paid when allocations to councils improve.
What was yet to be ascertained as at press time was if the aggrieved pensioners would give way for Governor Udom Emmanuel to return to the Hilltop mansion after his birthday time-out with the less-privileged and motherless children.
Meanwhile, Governor Udom Emmanuel has dedicated his 50th birthday to Akwa Ibom Children, especially to those who are less-privileged, pledging that the state will continue to do her best to be parents to them.
Emmanuel who made this pledge on his Facebook page said he was grateful to God for his life, wife and children. Quoting the bible he said, “if it had not been the Lord who was on our side the waters would have engulfed us, but our God gave us love strength to serve our people”.