‘We have died enough; we don’t want to die again’ Rivers pensioners to Wike

PENSIONERS in Rivers State took to the streets of Port Harcourt on Wednesday to protest against the non-payment of their gratuity since 2012, as well as pension allowances.

Most of them,  retired from the State Civil Service since 2015, added that the state government had yet to pay them their entitlements.

They revealed that  some of them had died, while others had lost their loves ones following the attendant challenges.

The senior citizens, dressed in dominant black attire, marched from the State Secretariat complex towards the Government House, Port Harcourt, before they were stopped by the state Commissioner of Police, Friday Eboka, besides the South-South regional office of the Central Bank of Nigeria along Azikiwe Road.

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Shortly after they were intercepted, they raised the placards they were carrying with several inscriptions revealing the untold hardship they were facing and waited for Eboka to address them.

Some of the writings on their placards read, ‘Our children are out of school,’ ‘Our health is deteriorating’, ‘We are being thrown out of our rented apartments’, ‘Poverty and misery have taken over us’, Governor Wike, pay us our gratuities and pension arrears’.

They said several efforts to make the government release the payment had fallen on deaf ears, hence they resorted to the protest.

One of the protesting pensioners simply identified as Moses told newsmen that they would continue the protest until the governor fulfilled their demands.

“I retired in 2015 and from that time till now, I have not been paid my gratuity and I am owed three years pension arrears and some of us are owed seven years.

“We have suffered for the state. Is it a crime to give in 35 years of our lives to this state? Our children are out of school. Some of us have been thrown out of our houses by the landlord because we owe rent.

“We will continue this protest until they (government) pays us. The governor set up a tripartite committee, and until now, we have not heard anything from him. We have many of our colleagues,” he stated.

The CP (Eboka), on behalf of the governor, appealed to them  and promised to forward their message to the governor.

Eboka said, “We have articulated all your grievances and I am aware that some of you retired since 2012; until now, you have not got your gratuities.”

But the spokesperson for the pensioners, Lucky Ati, gave the government two weeks to accelerate their action or they will resume the protest.

“The CP has come to address us; he has told us that he will take this matter to His Excellency. This does not mean that we are going out today; we will not return here again if they do not comply. We will still come out.

“We have died enough; we don’t want to die again. We are giving them (government) two weeks. In the next two weeks, we will gather here if nothing is done,” he stated.

According to Punch, When contacted, the State Head of Service, Dr. Rufus Godwins, said he could not respond to our correspondent on the telephone and asked our reporter to come to his office.

“I can’t respond to your question on the telephone. Besides, this is night, but you can come to the office,” he said.

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