No fewer than 500 pensioners have died of curable diseases because of non-payment of the backlog of pension arrears and gratuities, data from Abia State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) reveals.Expectedly, Okezie Ikpeazu’s government contributed immeasurably to these deaths as a large number of fatalities occurred within the last 30 months of his administration.
Statistically, the preventable deaths of Abia pensioners caused by government callousness in the last 30 months averaged 16.6 per cent per month.According to RealmNews, among several government parastatals owed backlog of arrears, Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) pensioners are the most awfully affected with 83 months’ (seven years) outstanding pension.
Post-Primary School, Local Government, State and Primary School pensioners owed between 25 to 38 months’ pension arrears completed the list.
Aside from this backlog of pension arrears, retirees (many dead) were yet to receive their gratuities since 2001 — eighteen years after retirement. Those who retired in 2017 were yet to be enlisted as pensioners adding more twists to the pension conundrum. Some of them are dead.
This negligence and ill-treatment have led to unbearable hardship and unceasing death of our members,” NUP Executives told our correspondent.
ABSUTH pensioners were last paid in December 2014, The Realm News was reliably informed.
Governor Ikpeazu was said to have directed ABSUTH pensioners to go for verification before the payment of their pension commenced but the exercise was abandoned midway.
“It’s one year since the verification exercise was abandoned,” a pensioner said.
A document signed by Elder V. C. Nwogwugwu (ABSUTH) obtained by The Realm News gives the breakdown of pension owed ABSUTH pensioners thus:
November–December 2009 = 2 months
January–December 2010 = 12 months
January–December 2011 = 12 months
January–2012 = 1 month
December 2014 = 1 month
January–December 2015 = 12 months
January–December 2016 = 12 months
January–December 2017 = 12 months
January–December 2018 = 12 months
January–July 2019 = 7 months
Total = 83 months
Following hue and cry, Governor Ikpeazu in a press release, PR/DG/DNCA/UA/AS of 26/6/19, underlined the plans of his administration “to ensure pensioners receive two months’ pay in June and another two months in July 2019”.
However, after one month (November 2017) was paid to a handful of pensioners in June 2019, the government reneged and instead directed pensioners to go for verification.
Irked by this objectionable infraction of a gentlemen agreement, the NUP, in a letter to the Head of Service (HOS), dated July 8, 2019, signed by its State Secretary, Dr O. C. Arungwa, pleaded with the government to redeem its promises.
According to the letter, the payment would enable pensioners to transport themselves to the venues designated for the said verification exercise.
“This is the condition that would assuage the frustration of Abia pensioners over the series of unfulfilled promises of government,” the letter read in part.
Upon the receipt, Governor Ikpeazu was said to have summoned the NUP Executives to the Government House, Umuahia, and lashed out at them.
“He told us that he doesn’t care if we protest or not. He said the one month paid to some of us was because of his conscience not the threat of protest,” NUP Executives told our correspondent.
“If you people decided to protest; it cannot change my decision. Nobody can change me, even my father could not despite several beatings when I was a child,” he was quoted to have further said.
After several weeks of anticipation, the NUP in a motion dated July 15, 2019, signed by its State Chairman, Comrade C. N. Udensi and State Secretary, Dr O. C. Arungwa resolved that the Abia State Council of the NUP, though not averse to verification, shall not allow its members to submit themselves for the verification exercise currently being proposed until:
State pensioners left out in the 2017 November arrears of pension have been paid
All Abia pensioners have received at least two months for the end of June 2019 out of the over 20 months’ pension arrears now owed them, as promised by the state governor.
That, however, hasn’t produced any positive result yet but expectations are high on how the government tends to utilise June FAAC allocation it received last week.