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Aggrieved Pensioners in Benue protest over unpaid gratuities and pensions

Some Benue State retirees marched to the streets of Makurdi a few days ago under the banner of Aggrieved Benue Pensioners to demand the payment of backlogs of unpaid pensions and gratuities accrued by previous governments in the state.

The enraged pensioners marched through Makurdi town, holding signs that read, among other things, Governor Ortom, the protector of Benue, please defend your pensioners; We have faith in you to pay us.

Mr. Akosu Ugba, the dissatisfied pensioners’ leader, told journalists that they decided to protest to attract the government’s attention to their suffering.

According to the state’s record of accumulated pensions owing by consecutive governments, state pensioners are owed 34 months, while their local government counterparts are owed 74 months.

“We implore the current government to take action to reduce the backlog since we have financial demands and responsibilities,” he said.

However, Michael Vember, the State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, stated that the demonstration was political and intended to embarrass the Benue State Government.

“The demonstrators are disloyal members of the NUP,” he claims. I don’t want to name them, but we realized they were associating with politicians, and we are not politicians.” We met when I found out about their plans. We inquired about their issue at our initial meeting.

They advocated for uniformity of arrears payment and quick payment. We informed them that we are in discussions with the government. We further informed them that we will meet with the administration again on October 12, 2021, to continue discussing the state’s retirees’ wellbeing.

But I’m not sure why they had to take to the streets to protest. They requested that five months be paid to them.

Governor Samuel Ortom expressed surprise at the senior citizens’ choice to take to the streets over unpaid payments, saying, “I must say, I was genuinely taken aback.” “However, I believe there is a political undertone to this.”

I inherited almost N70 billion in pension, gratuity, and salary arrears when I arrived in 2015. As of today, we’ve been able to get it down to less than N35 billion.

“As I speak with you, N700 million has been supplied for pensioners every month for the past six months as a result of the arrangement we negotiated with the pension union. The state receives N400 million, which is insufficient to pay all seniors, but as the saying goes, half a loaf is better than none. We also distribute N300 million at the local government level, bringing the total to N700 million.”

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