… Say, Okorocha purposefully accumulated pensions to perpetrate fraud
For the umpteenth time, hundreds of frail-looking but angry retirees Thursdaytrouped out in Owerri, the Imo State capital to protest against the ongoing slashing of their pensions down to 40 percent by the state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
The retirees also beckoned on President Muhammadu Buhari, to mandate the Governor to pay them their 22-77 months pension arrears and gratuities being owed them by the state Government.
Like the two previous protests, Thursday’s outing witnessed a total lock down of the state capital, grounding vehicular movements, economic and social activities. As a result, people returning to various parts of the country after the Christmas and New Year celebrations were left stranded with many lifting their traveling bags on their heads while the others simply turned back to their houses against their wishes.
The State Government is currently distributing what it tagged “pension form”, wherein the Retirees are being told to sign an undertaking to accept the slashing of their pension down to 40 percent.
According to the pension form, the Retirees would forfeit 60 percent of their pension arrears to the state government in view of the current economic recession while taking home 40 percent.
But the placard carrying retirees, who converged on the ever-busy Government House roundabout, blocked all entries leading in and out of the Government House, singing solidarity songs, described the policy as wicked and fraudulent.
According to the Chairman of NUP in the State, Chief Gideon Ezeji, Governor Okorocha intentionally accumulated the pensions in order to perpetrate fraud, “if not, how can any governor with genuine intentions try to slash pension payment when the responsibility of reviewing and fixing new pension rates or salaries are done by the appropriate federal government institution and not by the state government”.
He listed the arrears of pensions owed to the retirees as at December 2016 to include: civil pensioners, 22 months; local government retirees 23 months; retired primary school teachers 32 months; Imo Broadcasting Corporation pensioners 43 months; retired permanent secretaries 22 months; and Alvan Ikoku pensioners 77 months.
The chairman said “all the efforts to make Imo State government treat the pensioners humanely have proved abortive. The latest government move is to pay 40 percent of the accumulated pension arrears and to forfeit 60 percent. The Government is now using its agents to force the gullible Pensioners sign the document is prepared”.
He urged the Governor Rochas Okorocha led administration to pay them in full and restore normalcy in the pension administration of the state, insisting that the retirees had totally rejected the 40 percent payment of arrears of pensions
Also speaking, the secretary of the Association of Retired Permanent Secretaries, Chief Fabian Agba accused the Governor of plotting for secession from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, because he was not being obedient to the constituted authorities and the constitution of the country.
The retired permanent Secretary said “I doubt if Rochas Okorocha is still in APC. how can they say that he is the chairman of Progressives Governors Forum when he is deliberately working against President Muhammadu Buhari? Okorocha is running Imo with contractors. There is no proper account of the state accounts. We say no to this brazen injustice”.
Agba continued “Pension is money owed us while we were working. While in active service our salaries were not paid in full. The pensions are money deducted from our salaries while we were working. Imo State government is owing us. A debtor does not give conditions, he begs. But you can see Okorocha giving us conditions on how to pay us. Our pensions and gratuities are our rights and not a privilege”.