Vehicular movements were disrupted Monday morning around the Oba Ovoranmwen Square Benin City as Edo pensioners in their hundreds blocked an entire section of the busy road as they protested over non-payment of 10 years gratuities for workers from the state civil service and 13 years for local government retirees.
They also protested against the continued deduction of one per cent of their income to the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) and that their salaries have not been harmonised to ensure that all those who retired at the same level earn the same salary irrespective of the year they retired.
The blockade of the city centre caused gridlock along adjoining streets like Airport Road, Ezoti Street, Reservation Road, parts of Sapele Road and others.
Speaking to journalists, one of the protesters Gordon Osamunyi said: “We are all pensioners that are alive, we all have issues with the government, if it is not harmonisation, it is the consequential adjustment of the N30,000 minimum wage, every pensioner that is still alive today has issues with the government.
“There is no harmonisation of pensions which is making people who retired in the same salary grade level earn the same pension irrespective of the time they retired. This is in the constitution but the Edo State government has not done so. There are increases that would have harmonised salaries but they were not done dating back to the period of Lucky Igbinedion.”
According to Osamuyi, “Then we have an issue with not paying gratuity. Since this government came in 2016, they have not paid a single year’s gratuity. At least the previous government tried to pay at least one set in a year and people are retiring every time. Let the government start paying like his predecessor did.
“In 2017, April precisely, the present government called those who retired in 2012 and 2013 because Oshimhole’s government stopped in 2011 for screening. They were screened at Imaguero College and the yellow paper which is the authority they have that the government is owing was withdrawn from them which is the practice and then told to go and wait for their alert, till now, none of them have been credited with their money.
“ The alert is still being expected four years and six months after. Unpaid gratuities are now spanning ten years since the last one that was paid in 2011. Now in the local government, theirs is spanning from 2008 till date these are stockpiled gratuities.”
Responding to the pensioners’ demand, the permanent secretary, Pension Bureau, Washington Abbey said they have acceded to the stoppage of the one per cent deduction while he assured them that their demands would be met soonest.