No fewer than 236 members of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners NUP, Osun State chapter have lost their lives this year following the inability of the state government to pay their pension and gratuity. This was made known yesterday when members of the union staged a peaceful protest to the State House of Assembly and major streets in Osogbo.
The protesters, who are mostly elderly people from across the state later moved from the state Assembly to the popular Olaiya Junction causing gridlock and preventing vehicular movements in the area for more than two hours.
The pensioners, who carried different inscriptions reading “Pensioners are suffering” pay our pension” , we can’t suffer any more, ‘’ stop deceiving us’’ among others, also sang different abusive songs against the state government.
Addressing journalists during the protest, the state secretary of the union, Elder Adesoji Adedire, lamented that members of the union could no longer bear the agony posed by the current financial hardship in the state.
Adedire stressed that the protest became necessary since the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government had said that no state was being owed monthly allocation.
His words: “Pensioners in the state are yet to be paid seven months pension. All promises made by Governor Rauf Aregbesola when we met with him on July 23, 2013 were empty and his insensitivity to the plight of pensioners have led to the untimely death of many of us.
“About 30% of the pensioners due for the 142% pension arrears are yet to collect the initial 15% of the arrears, payment which started in October 2012. Even many pensioners who were short-paid were not attended to.
“Non payment of the arrears of 19%, 6% and 15% pension increase which the government implemented in 2011 as well as non payment of the federal share of gratuity and pension of those who retired from July 1,2007 for which the state government has accepted.”
He also frowned at the abusive languages used by the state governor describing the pensioners as indolent people that pensioners children and wards should cater for them. Earlier at the state house of Assembly, the deputy chief whip of the house, Mr Taiwo Adeyemi who addressed the protesters pleaded with them to exercise patience promising that the governor would soon find a solution to the issue.
Don’t blame me – Aregbesola
Meantime, while reacting to the protest, governor Aregbesola said the challenge of unpaid salaries should not be seen as opportunities to blame either his government or any other facing the same challenges. Although he admitted that the regime of unpaid salary was tragic and painful, the governor said all stakeholders must gloss over the challenges this created, so as to find a lasting solution to it.
Aregbesola described the situation as an economic tragedy and attributed the current misfortune to gross mishandling of the nation’s economy by the last regime of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He stated that the unchecked oil theft under the PDP in which the nation was losing 400, 000 barrels per day, culminated in drastic reduction of oil price in the international market.
“The delay in salaries and pensions pains me a lot and when I reflect on the travails of the people I feel sad about it. “There are natural disasters caused by force majeur. There are economic disasters caused by factors above human powers. “In our circumstance, what is available to us as allocation is less than what is needed to meet our statutory obligation however prudent we have been.