Rochas Okorocha, governor of the state, wants pensioners in the state to sign off years of entitlements in order to get a meagre sum that is way below half of what is due to them.
A document from the state government to the pensioners, seen by TheCable, seeks to compel the retirees to accept the plan of the state to pay them only 40 percent of pension arrears and cancel the remaining 60 percent. Not only that, 40 percent payment is only applicable to 13 months of pension; all arrears beyond 13 months are to be written off.
In context, this means a pensioner, who is owed 70 months pension of N50,000 per month, which totals N3.5 million, will only get N260,000 and forfeit N3.24 million. Pensioners also say the state is coercing them into signing the deal else they will not get a dime at all.
An official of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) in the state also confirmed the deal, adding that some retirees of the Alvan Ikoku University of Education, who are being owed 72 months, were also asked to sign off 59 months.
“By my own findings, many people still went for it because precedent tells them that they might as well forfeit everything if they rejected it,” he said.
“There was a time government was owing the judicial staff and those people went for strike for almost eight months. At the end, nothing was done; they even had to come back and beg, that whatever was agreed before should be paid them.
“Many people were psychologically beaten to take it. But I know those who have not taken it are more in the state than those who have.”
Some of the pensioners in the state, who had been given the documents needed to sign off their benefits but rejected it, spoke with TheCable but asked for their identities to be protected.
They revealed that some of their colleagues had taken the deal after being threatened with the fear of losing all benefits.
“It is one thing to call God and another thing is to serve God,”said a pensioner who is being owed 23 months.
“Our governor does not know God. If he knew God, he would know that those who suffered in their youthful life, for the state and the nation, should be given preference.
“How come he wants to pay us 40 percent and cancel 60 percent, plus whatever claims you have? He said if you have signed, you have no rights to ask for the present, past or future. That is ungodly; anybody who has God at heart cannot treat even slaves like this, not to talk of senior citizens.
“I am owed 23 months. The three months he paid in 2015, I didn’t get anything; my name didn’t appear. The one I got is the 70 percent he paid this August. January 2015 to December 2016 is 24 months. So if you remove August, I’m being owed 23 months, and he wrote 13 months in my form and asked me to sign that I have collected all that is due to me. See how wicked.”
Another pensioner said he worked vehemently for Okorocha and the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the last political alliance that saw APC come into power, only to be left in the cold.
“Is he the first governor to take up the mantle of leadership in Imo state? I was a leader in his first tenure. In fact, I carried the cross of APC in this ward. Whoever is an APC man in this ward now, I converted him or her,” he said.
“Those people who worked for him, who gave him solidarity and overwhelming votes, are the people he is now punishing. God will not be happy with him.”
BUHARI MUST INTERVENE
The pensioner said President Muhammadu Buhari must intervene unless he is a part of the act.
“Buhari is the controller of this country; if any part becomes ungovernable, he must be held responsible unless he is part of this wicked act. If he is not part of this wicked act, that form alone will make him take some steps,” said.
“Pension is a constitutional issue, I don’t see how an individual has come and changed what the nation has done just to please himself.”
The deal, however, does not affect pensioners who fall within the grade one to six of the civil service cadre.
All efforts of TheCable to get the reaction of the Imo state government yielded no result, as Chinedu Offor, commissioner for information, neither answered calls to his line nor replied the text messages.