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Pensioners in Edo State yesterday took to the streets of Benin City, the Edo State capital to protest President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to the National Assembly to approve N14.7billion ($75million) World Bank loan for the Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s administration.
They said rather than approving new loans for Governor Oshiomhole, the National Assembly should ask for details of how previous tranches of the loans were spent.
The pensioners lamented that Buhari’s request came at a time the state is in financial quandary, unable to harmonise pensions and pay local government workers’ salaries for nine months.
Edo State Secretary of the Local Government Pensioners, Mr. Thomas Uwagboe, who addressed reporters in one of the protests to the state office of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, said that there are no guarantees that the state government would make judicious use of the loan.
He lamented the plight of the 5,000-member pensioners in Edo, stressing that the state government was still “owing arrears of pensions, gratuities and three months’ salary in lieu of notice for 2,000 set of retirees.”
Uwagboe said since April this year, the same government stopped “our monthly pension allowances” without any reason and paid in July 2015, “leaving May, June and July 2015.”
He accused the state government of failing to pay its 22.5 percentage share of the pension funds, a burden which cash-strapped local governments are saddled with even as the Federal Government also stopped fulfilling its part of the bargain.
According to him, since the year 2000, “majority of pensioners have been losing 53 percent of their monthly pensions consequent upon the harmonisation exercise, whereas the government has reviewed the civil service salary structure for four consecutive times excluding pensions.
“Pensioners’ situation in Edo has become pitiable as they have become regular protesters on the streets of the state capital, Benin City,” he said, adding that as “senior citizens of the nation they have been disregarded and pauperised.”
The union urged the state government to harmonise pensions of retirees as approved by the state House of Assembly in 2011, pay all arrears of their entitlements, as well as increase approved allocations for local government in the state to pay retirees their entitlements while including pensioners’ benefits in future budgets.