By Salawudeen Olawale
Scores of Local Government pensioners in Benue State under the umbrella of Coalition of Local Government Retirees, on Tuesday in Makurdi marched to Benue Government House to protest non-payment of arrears of pensioners ranging from 24-70 months.
The pensioners lamented that they have been placed under worse conditions, adding that their lives have been worse than ever.
The pensioners carried placards with various inscriptions such as; ‘pay us our pensions’, ‘EFCC come and rescue LG pensioners in Benue’, ‘Gov. Samuel Ortom pay LG pensioners their pension arrears,’ ‘Ortom merge us with Old pensioners with Bureau for LG”, ‘Governor use the billions from Paris Club to pay pensioners’, and ‘we are dying, no money to buy drugs and pay our children school fees’.
The Chairman of the LG pensioners, Comrade Michael Vembe who spoke to the deputy governor, Engineer Benson Abounu who represented governor Samuel Ortom, said that some of the pensioners now sleep in uncompleted building and by the roadside in their respective areas, saying, ‘we have no money to maintain our respective homes.’
Vembe stated that the pensioners need their entitlement to pay their children’s school fees.
He alleged that some of the local government pensioners have not been captured and added that those who were captured could not benefit from the N200m monthly the governor approved for pensioners because the fund was insufficient.
“I want to appeal to our governor to place us on monthly pension, the group of local government retirees who retired since 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 have not been captured.”
He appealed to governor Ortom to grant approval of N70m only to place this category of pensioners on monthly pension allowance like those who have already been captured.
Comrade Vembe attributed the hardship been faced by pensioners in the state to the inability of the ministry of Finance to continue to release the N200m so directed by the governor.
He called on state government to shift the payment of their pension arrears from the ministry of finance to Bureau of local government and chieftaincy affairs.
In his response, Governor Ortom, who was represented by his deputy, Engineer Benson Abounu, enjoined the protesters to exercise patience.
He assured them that the state government would release funds to them as soon as Paris Club fund is released.
“The governor asked me to meet with you and to tell you to exercise patient, we are expecting some funds from Paris Club as soon as the money comes we will address the issue”.
“We cannot say precisely when the money will come, actually we thought that the money would hit out bank last week but the minister of finance said there was paucity of funds, so anytime the money will come and we promise to pay something to alleviate your problems”, he concluded.