Bayelsa state Pensioners under the support of Bayelsa State Pensioners Association (BPA), on Thursday, had a peaceful protest to appeal to the state governor, Honourable Seriake Dickson, to pay their eight years outstanding pension arrears.
The group also called on the government to as a matter of urgency pay off the backlog of this money.
The retirees numbering about two hundred decried the impoverished condition of senior citizens in the state.
They also lamented that for the last eight years, Dickson was able to pay only N2.1bn out of N3.5bn, being part of the outstanding pension arrears his predecessor, Chief Timipre Sylva, owed them before leaving the office.
Speaking at a press conference in Yenagoa, the president of the association, Alabo G. Bodi-Amaran, appealed to the state government to float a pool of revolving nonprofit fund from where pensioners can receive money for small scale business start-up for those who are willing to do so after retirement.
According to Bodi-Amaran, retirees in the state have also resolved to support only a candidate in the forthcoming November 16th governorship election who is willing to be committed to paying their arrears.
Explaining further, Bodi-Amaran called on pensioners in the state to be calm and wait for further directive on who to vote as Dickson’s successor, saying they should remain non-partisan and be opened to wide consultation.
He said, “one of the sad realities pensioners have been subjected to for almost eight (8) years, is the non-payment of gratuity, being a welfare package rightly paid every retiree to meet the numerous socioeconomic obligations after meritorious service.
“It is obvious that the government’s refusal to pay gratuity is a deliberate attempt to impoverish senior citizens whose crime is clearly that we diligently served the state.
“Let it be on record that we have heard endless promises on these issues but unfortunately, promises have never put food on our tables, nor paid our rents, children’s fees, nor any other responsibilities. We, therefore, demand payment of the arrears without further delay.
“It is common knowledge that what we receive as monthly take-home does not take us home in the actual sense, it rather takes us into indebtedness, resulting in misery and pain. In spite of this, without due consultations, the government is unilaterally and arbitrarily deducting our monthly payment for the Bayelsa State Health Insurance Scheme and the State Education Trust Fund.
“We make bold to say, it is the government’s obligation to care for her senior citizens as against forcefully taking monies of the aged to fund state responsibilities. Hence, we demand a stop to the deduction of pensioners monies to fund these schemes as the deductions are illegal and unjust.
“We are requesting the state government to harmonize the payment of pension in the state and institute or float a pool of Revolving Non-profit Fund from where pensioners call to receive money for small scale business start-up in order to meaningfully engage those who are desirous of doing so at retirement.
“Based on the foregoing, the Bayelsa State Pensioners Association, in view of the central place of political will by the government to meeting and ameliorating the plight of pensioners, has resolved to support only a candidate in the forthcoming governorship election who is willing and will be committed to attending to our demands.
“As leaders of the Bayelsa State Pensioners Association, we are calling on all pensioners in the state to be calm and await further directive on who to vote as governor by pensioners on November 16. BPA remains non-partisan but we will continue to fight for and protect the interest of pensioners by being open to consultations, we have even lost count of how much they are being owed.”