Following failure of the Imo State Government to pay their five-month pension arrears, scores of retirees yesterday protested against the continued delay in Owerri.
The reporters sighted them begging alms with their plates, as good spirited individuals gave them money, but the retirees lamented that no fewer than 49 pensioners had died from hunger and lack of funds to buy drugs.
They appealled to Governor Hope Uzodinma to consider the plight and pay them without further delay, just as they cursed those preventing them from receiving their gratuity and pensions.
Their placards bore various inscription as: “We Are Dying, Please Governor Uzodinma Pay Us, We Can No Longer Allow This To Linger; We Must Eat The Same Way You Eat With Tax Payers’ Money and We Urge The Entire World To Intervene And Save Us From Further Deaths.”
They matched to the Government House, Owerri, blocking roads and chanting solidarity songs, but dispersed after a while, assuring that they would resume at a later date if they were not paid.
However, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Cosmos Iwu, who addressed the protesters had pleaded on behalf of Governor Uzodinma and pledged that the retirees would be paid last week.
But as at the time of filing this report, some of the pensioners told the reporters that the state government allegedly reneged on its promise.
One of the retirees, Iyk Ohaneje, lamented that no fewer than 49 retirees had died in the last four months awaiting their pensions, saying they died from acute hunger and underlying ailments for which they could not raise money to buy drugs.
While fielding questions from journalists, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, said he was not aware of any promises by the governor to pay last weekend, insisting that government owed the retirees two months arrears, as against four months.
He stressed that discrepancies caused by payroll fraudsters, including eight retirees who had received N330m yearly, among others, was responsible for the delay, but that the government was sanitising the system.