By G9ija

Retired primary school teachers as well as next of kin of deceased teachers in Akwa Ibom State on Thursday blocked the IBB way in Uyo, over their unpaid pensions, gratuities.

The pensioners also alleged non-refund of 7.5% of their compulsory pension contribution by the state government.

Vehicular movement was grounded in that axis as the aged retirees stood on the road for over one hour preventing motorists from passing even as they displayed placards with inscriptions such, ‘Save Our Souls, Udom Emmanuel,’ pay us our entitlements, we are hungry among others.’

The retirees who trooped out in their numbers said they were exhausted, hungry, sick, humiliated and disappointed as they claimed that the governor has stifled their only source of livelihood after retirement from active service.

The retirees in a letter addressed to Governor Udom Emmanuel asked why the state government was yet to refund their 7.5% compulsory pension contribution for the past eight years.

The statement was jointly signed by the chairman and the secretaries of the retired primary school teachers association and the next of kin of deceased teachers, Dr Felix Cookey, Emmanuel Udoka and Mr Benjamin Benson.

The retirees in the statement also called for the harmonization and upward review of their pension saying it is pathetic to see a pensioner going home a month with N2000 as pension considering the present economic realities.

The statement in parts, “We the retired primary school teachers and the next of kin of late teachers in Akwa Ibom State have come out today to tell our son the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel that we are very hungry, very sick, very embarrassed, humiliated and disappointed. Our families are suffering and many have died due to extreme poverty occasioned by the non-positive response by the governor towards our plight.

“Some months ago his Excellency in a statewide broadcast assured us to go to the Accountant General of the state for pension arrears that the state government has paid all pension arrears. Please His Excellency doesn’t toy up and down; here and there. Give us our unpaid pension.

“It is unthinkable that his Excellency can withhold the only source of livelihood of this set of people who cry day in and day out since October 2015. The 2015 retired teachers are owed ten months from July, 2015-April 2016 whereas all the documentation had since been completed and clearance issued before June 2015.

“These people retired when Udom Emmanuel became the governor.

” Mr Governor, please give us our unpaid pension. We are all human beings, our pension is our right. 7.5% was compulsorily deducted from our salary while in service on the pretence that the amount will be refunded on the first month of retirement. But is now over 8 years the money is not refunded. We request an immediate refund of our money.

“We call for the harmonization of our pension according to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in which the government is well outlined. It is very pathetic to see a pensioner going home with N2000 a month in today’s society.”

The retirees also noted that out of the N28.8 billion owed them, the state government paid only N600 million in three tranches saying the amount paid was grossly inadequate even as they requested for the release of more funds of at least Five Billion Naira for the fourth batch and the subsequent batches.

The statement added, “early this year, the government carried out a verification exercise to ascertain the actual number of retired teachers both living and late ones. In the course of the verification 3503 teachers living were duly verified and 1479 late cases with the total number standing at 4982 with financial involvement of N28.8bn.

“Out of this number, only about 118 living teachers and 163 late cases have been paid within batch 1,2,3 and the amount of money used is about N600m.

“This amount is grossly inadequate and going by the trend, it means that the governor will not finish 2011 living and 2014 late cases.”

While thanking the governor for regular payment of pensions to other sectors they, however, appealed for the creation of a concrete platform for the payment of primary school teachers serving and retired salary and retirement entitlements respectively noting that it’s not safe for those who are old, sick, helpless to be so exposed to such level of hardship

Following the protest by the pensioners, newsmen made efforts to speak with State Commissioner for Information but his phone was switched off as at press time.