From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Senior citizens in Rivers State have staged a demonstration in Port Harcourt over several years of unpaid pension arrears and gratuities.
Daily Sun gathered that most of the pensioners were above 60 years and have not received their gratuities since their retirement from active service.
The protesters, who dressed in black attires, with placards of different inscriptions, lamented that they had been in penury and have nothing to show for a life after service.
Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “Pensioners are facing untold hardship”, “Many are homeless”, “Many are dead”, “One year after, where is the Tripartite Committee report?” “We served 35 years. Why treat us this way?” And, “Demand for immediate payment of balance pension from 2012 to date. Give us our money now.”
One of the protesters, Mr U Timothy, who spoke to reporters, alleged that some of the retirees have not received their gratuities since 2012.
According to him, scores of pensioners have died, marriages broken and their children out of school.
He appealed to Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to rescue them from untold hardship, by paying their pension arrears and gratuities.
‘We are peaceful. We do not want to create any chaos in the state. We are still pleading with him (Wike) to pay us our gratuities. So many people (pensioners) have died; children are out of schools; marriages are broken because of this situation. So, what do we do?,’ Timothy expressed.
Rivers State Commissioner of Police, CP Friday Eboka, who addressed the protesting pensioners, commended them for the way they comported themselves peacefully, saying they had shown maturity and status as senior citizens.
The CP promises them that he would convey their grievances to the state governor, assuring that soonest the complaints would be addressed appropriately.
He appealed to the aggrieved pensioners to be calm and return to their respective homes, noting that their endurance all these years would not be in vain.
Eboka noted: “I learnt some of you retired since 2012, 2014. Up till now, you have not received your gratuities. You know how it is; before you retire, almost all of are up to the age of 60.
‘When you are 60, you don’t have the strength to work very well again. Government should be looking after you as senior citizens.
‘I have listened to you and I want to assure you that I will take up from this place because very soon, I will retire. I have heard all your grievances, all you have articulated. I will pass it to the governor to look into your plights.
‘You have been enduring this since and very soon, it will be over. I have no money to pay, but I will take it up. Thank you for the way you have conducted yourselves so far.
‘And, I want to appeal to you to go back to your homes, while I would be in touch with your leaders so that this will be over.’