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Retired Teachers Lament Over Six Years Of Unpaid Benefits

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Mrs. Akele berated the Delta State government for depriving the retirees of a well-deserved retirement.  Rather than have a safety net to fall back on, retirees are forced to depend on their children and others to survive.

A 70-year-old retired teacher in Delta State, Mrs. Queen Akele, has lamented the hardship she experienced because her retirement benefits paid by Ethiope East Local Council, Delta State, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The former primary school teacher is among hundreds of other teachers and local government workers who are being owed six years of entitlement totalling over N48 billion.

Clad in black mourning clothes, Mrs. Akele and some other pensioners under the aegis of Delta State Local Government and Primary School Teachers Retirees Union thronged the streets of Asaba, the Delta State Capital to call attention to their plight, temporarily disrupting traffic Tuesday last week[.

Mrs. Akele, who was seen with a folded mat on her head while protesting, said 35 teachers had died due to ill health and disease, lack of care and money to purchase basic medication.

She said she retired from the teaching service on August 31, 2014 and her file got to the local government pensions bureau in January 2015 but from then till the day of the protest, all she had got was “one promise or the other”.

Mrs. Akele berated the Delta State government for depriving the retirees of a well-deserved retirement.  Rather than have a safety net to fall back on, retirees are forced to depend on their children and others to survive.

“My husband died 30 years ago. He was a headmaster before he died. I have three children. They are all graduates. It is only one that is working in teaching hospital, Oghara. I eat zero-one-zero – that is – once a day. On my health, today I am down, tomorrow I am up.

“Many of us have died. Many are down; they cannot sit, neither can they walk. It is the grace of God that is surviving us. I am over 70 years old. That is why I have come with this mat that I will lie down here, without good results I will not go home.

“During the lockdown period I had one good man close to me who was giving me food. That helped me to survive. He is Paul Okene by name. If not, I do not know where I would have been by now.”

She called on the government to pay her entitlement in her lifetime so she could enjoy the fruits of her labour.

“I want the Governor to pay me my pension and gratuity. If I die before it is paid, my family will come and sit down and will have authority over what I laboured for. I do not want it to be so. I want it to be paid. I am from Eku community in Ethiope East. I lost my husband January 1993.”

At state House of Assembly and the Government House in Asaba the protesters were shut out by security operatives.

After rejecting emissaries from Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, including the Head of Service, Reginald Bayoko and Senior Special Assistant (Religion Matters), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Apostle Silvanus Okorote and State NLC chairman, Goodluck Ofobruku, a tense standoff ensued.

The crowd booed and jeered when Ofobruku said he was unaware that retirees at the local government tier had issues with receiving their benefits.

Undeterred the protesters danced, drummed and sang solidarity songs to register their discontent – bearing placards with such inscriptions as: “Pay Us Our Gratuity From 2014 to date”, “Our pensions matter; no retreat, no surrender”, “EFCC probe all PFAs”, “Let us reap the fruit of our 35 years’ labour”, “Okowa! Retirees deserve a better life; do something;” and “Gov. Okowa, our gratuity and pension is our right.”

Spokesperson for the protesters, Chief Helen Egie said the retirees had suffered enough hardship and humiliation since retirement, adding because several meetings with government officials had yielded no results, hence the peaceful protest.

She said the backlog of unpaid accrued rights as at last December was N48,369,331,624 of which N8,137,909,068 was for local government retirees and N40,231,422,556 was for primary school retirees.

According to her, records from Bureau of Local Government Pension, un-remitted deductions from staff contributions amounted to N5.9 billion.

Egie said with the monthly allocation of N300million by the state government, it would take over 18 years to offset the N40 billion backlog.

She accused government of wanting local government/ primary school retirees to be without any means of livelihood for over 18 years after retirement.

The protesters urged an increase in the monthly allocation from the state government from N300 million to N2billion until the backlog is offset.

Bayoko sued for patience, adding that the state government was concerned about their plight.

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Ngere Ikenna is a passionate learner and freelancer writer, blogger and a lover of good reads.
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