Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha has reacted to the recent protest by pensioners in the state.
The elderly pensioners on Wednesday, June 15, took to the streets of the state capital to demonstrate over non payment of their entitlements by the government. Below is the statement issued by Sam Onwuemeodo, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor:
“The State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has sincerely commended the pensioners in the state for the peaceful manner with which they had conducted their protest on Thursday, June 16, 2016 over the non-payment of their pensions for certain months.
The governor contends that the Pensioners were right to have gone on protest over their pensions, and had only exercised their guaranteed right of protest over an issue affecting them.
It was as a result of the appreciation of the reason for the protest that made the governor to direct the security agencies in the state and all the government officials to be on their toes for the period the protest had lasted to ensure that no pensioner involved in the exercise was insulted or touched. And the pensioners had had undisrupted outing, and even chased away the Commissioner for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) who was sent to talk with them on what could be made available for them as entertainment, while discussion with their leaders would follow. However, the only area the governor felt and still feel worried with the pensioners was their failure or inability to find out the reason for the delay in the payment of their pensions since such situation had not arisen before now.
The pensioners in the state do not need to be told that the governor loves them greatly and would have also loved to pay them all the arrears outrightly given the option since he had paid them religiously since 2011, until now. And the governor had expected the pensioners to ask question and find out the reason for the delay this time.
Since 2011, and before the current economic challenges across the nation, the government had paid the pensioners in the state without taking cognizance of certain lapses in the administration of the pension payments and the number of genuine pensioners in the state. But the economic situation in the country at the moment occasioned by the mismanagement of the country’s resources over the years, which has also affected negatively the financies of the states has called for stringent measures in the payment of salaries and pensions. It was this development that had compelled the government to find out why between 2011 and now, the number of pensioners in the state has snowballed by 500 percent, and the amount involved gone from hundreds of millions of naira to billions of naira.
That was one of the reasons the government embarked on verification. And preliminary findings have shown that a cartel had used the opportunity offered to them by the change of government in 2011 to inflate unpatriotically the number of pensioners in the state to a level that is unbelievable. And that is what the government has been assiduously working to rectify. And the truth remains that once the government succeeds in separating the fake pensioners from the genuine ones, the genuine ones would be paid their pensions. And this action will be taken in a matter of weeks.
The governor therefore regrets the delay and at the same time appeals to the pensioners in the state for their understanding, bearing in mind that he meant well for them since 2011 when he became governor. It is equally important to let the pensioners know that those urging them to take one action or the other do not love them more than governor Okorocha. For instance, the owner of the particular Radio station in the state that had tried to make out something sinister from the pensioners’ protest was reported to have got more than N750 million from the 4 billion dollars’ arms purchase scandal, and the pensioners should ask those in the radio station why they didn’t bring up the N750 million issue for discussion.
Once more, the governor appeals to the pensioners in the state for understanding.