By Festus Ahon, Asaba
Retired Local Government workers and primary school teachers, stormed the streets of Asaba, Delta State in protest against the non-payment of their retirement benefits.
Clad in black attires, the retirees numbering over 1000, marched through the streets of the State capital to the State House of Assembly complex and Government House, chanting songs of disenchantment.
The protesters, however, refused to be addressed by the Head of Service, Reginald Bayoko, Senior Special Assistant (Religion Matters), and current Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Apostle Silvanus Okorote and State NLC chairman, Comrade Goodluck Ofobruku.
Displaying placards with various inscriptions such as “Pay Us Our Gratuity From 2014 to date”, “Our Pension Mata, No Retreat, No Surrender”,”Let Us Reap the Fruit Of Our 35 years Labour”, amongst others, the protesters said they have suffered enough and urged the State Government to urgently pay them their benefits.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Chief Helen Egie said they have suffered enough hardship and humiliation since retirement, saying that several meetings they held with government officials yielded no results hence the peaceful protest.
Lamenting that 35 teachers have died due to ill health and disease, lack of care, and money to purchase basic medication, Egie said the backlog of unpaid accrued rights as at December 2019 was N48,369,331,624.00 of which N8,137,909,068 was for local government retirees and N40,231,422,556.00 was for primary school retirees.
She said records from the Bureau of Local Government Pension, showed that unremitted deductions from staff contribution “is N5.9 billion”, adding that “with the current monthly allocation of N300,00,000.00 by the State government, it will take over 18 years to offset the N40billion backlog”.
While accusing the government of wanting local government workers/ primary school retirees to be without any means for over 18 years after retirement, she appealed for an increase in the monthly allocation from N300 million to N2 billion until the backlog was cleared.
The Head of Service, Mr. Bayoko, however, told the protesters to be patient with the government, saying that the state government was working out modalities to pay them their benefits.