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65% Of Our Members Down With Diabetes – Akwa Ibom Pensioners

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Distraught members of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), running into about 28,000 in Akwa Ibom State, are lamenting neglect by successive governments over non-payment of pension and gratuity. They have also raised the alarm that their ranks are daily being depleted by terminal ailments including diabetes and hypertension.

Except urgent intervention comes, the senior citizens have threatened to embark on mass demonstration across the streets of Uyo, the state capital that would culminate in barricading Government House gate to press home their demand for consistent payment of their entitlements.

They lamented that every effort to get government attention to ameliorate their worsening plights proved abortive, hence the decision to take to the streets to let the world know their predicament.

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Addressing journalists on behalf of their members in Uyo, yesterday, the state chairman, Obong Ekpenyong Ekpo, and secretary Obong Cosmos Essien, lamented that that the worsening condition of members of the union should be a source of concern to government and public – spirited Nigerians.

The secretary recalled that; “the sad plight of our members is that those who retired in the 1980s with salaries of N1,000, N1,500 or N2,000 are still collecting such funds as pension till date in Akwa Ibom State.“

He added: “Whenever you retire, what is worked out for you remains static, until the 1999 constitution in section 173 (3) (2) (10) provides explicitly that pension will be reviewed every five years along whatever increase giving to workers, but the government here bluntly refused to implement the review.

“Can you imagine that in present Day Nigeria, many of our members are still collecting N2000 a month, some N1000 a month and their current situation is very pathetic, some don't have children  to care for them, only few privileged ones have, while those who have children late are still training them in school.

“When Akwa Ibom government promised us minimum pension of N20,000 for those who retired before 1997 and N30,000 for those afterwards and asked us to inform members  across board, there was jubilation and they also promised  to start payment from April 2023 to avoid accumulation of arrears, however till date nothing has been paid. All pressure on the government to implement it failed woefully.

“The arrears they tried to avoid have accumulated. We have been praying, crying and reaching out to those in government to help but no sign of change, our members are dying daily because they cannot afford drugs, over 65% of pensioners are hypertensive, and diabetic, survival in Nigeria presently is  very expensive and our members are no longer coping, we have brought our plight to government and they snubbed us.”   

However, the union expressed gratitude to Governor Umo Eno, for the payment of gratuity, stressing that the governor has within the 9 months in office paid about N14 billion in gratuities, which cut across civil service pensioners, local government pensioners, primary school pensioners and next -of -kins.

“If other administrations have made similar efforts, I think we will not have been in this kind of dilemma we found ourselves in today. We really appeal to him to continue as a Pastor with a heart of human kindness to salvage the situation. He must not toe the part of his predecessors who abandoned the aged citizens and our prayer for the governor will be ceaseless in order to do more „

“We have realized that pensioners have nobody to speak for them and let the world know their plight in Akwa Ibom. We appeal to the incumbent governor to come to our aid by establishing a pension commission or Board,” he said.

The union maintained that it has approximately between 25,000 to 28,000 members. „This is because as many are dying on a daily basis, others retire into the system too, it is a situation of coming in and exiting members at same time,” he added.

It insisted that notwithstanding the governor‘s recent efforts, over N40 billion outstanding pension and gratuities remain unpaid.

 


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