By AbdulFatai Beki
Ilorin – Hundreds of pensioners in Kwara on Tuesday embarked on a peaceful protest in Ilorin, threatening to boycott the 2019 elections, if the state government failed to settle their over N50 billion unpaid pensions and gratuities.
The pensioners, including those from the 16 local government areas of the state and primary school teachers were armed with placards of various inscriptions, demanding for the immediate settlement of their unpaid entitlements.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that they gathered in front of the State Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), located in the Commissioners’ Lodge Way, Government Reserved Area (GRA) in Ilorin.
NAN reports that they defied the heavy rainfall, chanting various anti-government songs to express their displeasure with the state government.
The retirees, mostly old women and the physically challenged people, also displayed their permanent voter cards during the protest, vowing not to participate in the elections, unless the state government met their demands.
Addressing the pensioners, Alhaji Saidu Oladimeji, the State Chapter Chairman of NUP, said that they resulted to the protest as they could no longer endure the hardship.
Oladimeji said that the state government had since March 2014 stopped the payment of gratuities to retired workers, which he said, had increased the poverty level and led to untimely death of many pensioners.
He added that retirees from the local government areas had not been collecting gratuities since 2008, saying, “they had been taken amputated pensions since 2008”.
The chairman also accused the state government of non-implementating the 20 per cent of the salary increase harmonisation to workers that retired ahead of May 1, 2010 in the16 council areas and teachers under the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
“We are demanding the full payment of the mutilated monthly pensions to retirees from the local government areas which had entered 10 months now with negative impacts on the lives of the retired workers,’’ he said.
The pensioners chairman appealed to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and Gov. AbdulFatah Ahmed, to fulfill their pledges of settling the unpaid gratuities and pensions before the end of September.
In his reactions, Dr Muideen Akorede, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Communications, said the state government was awared of the pensioners’ plights.
According to him, the state government will assist the local governments to clear all the arrears as soon as it receives the expected cash inflows.
He said that payment of the arrears of gratuities was almost over.