*Over non payment of entitlements
*1,126 of them died in two years
*We are not owing pensioners
Local Government pensioners in Kwara State have embarked on a seven-day fasting and prayer session to ask God to touch the heart of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed to pay their outstanding arrears allegedly running into billions of Naira.
The pensioners had last week at a press conference in Ilorin, the state capital, announced that a total number of 1,126 of them had died of starvation, inability to meet their medications and general upkeep because of the refusal of the state government to pay their pensions for months.
According to them at the press conference addressed by the State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Alhaji Isiaka Akanbi, their deceased colleagues died between January 2015 and this month (February, 2017)
They accused the state government of forcefully taking over the finances of Local Governments in the state and refused to pay both working and retired council personnel their salaries, allowances and pensions regularly and where paid at all, it used to be in pitiable percentages.
This they said had been the practice for over a decade which was long before the current economic recession in the country as against the claim of the state government as excuse not to pay pensioners among who were the aged, their pensions.
The pensioners lamented that those who died did not necessarily die in their old ages pointing out that some died in their early 50s all because of their poor financial situations.
They also accused the state government of stopping payment of gratuities to retired Local Government workers since November 2008 for no concrete reasons.
The pensioners also alleged that those who died, particularly the aged ones died as a result of the constant mandatory verification exercise imposed on the old men and women making them to traverse the length and breadth of the state pointing out that majority of them subsequently died after such rigorous exercise.
They listed four recent pensioners who died in Ifelodun Local Government, the home council of the governor, including one Garba Okoye from Share, the home town of the governor as well as late N.S. Alabi who was 72 years; late Mrs John, 62 years and late Mr. Alashi, 68 years.
They complained of a Joint Accounts Allocations Committee (JAAC) set up by the state government to share local councils federal allocations where the Trade Unions were reduced to mere spectators and the state decides on what pittances to give pensioners even when the money was their legitimate fund that they should have unfettered access to.
According to them, JAAC, presided over by the Finance Commissioner usually meet by 8 o’clock in the morning on their chosen meeting days where they shared the allocations as it pleased them and then called the workers and pensioners representatives to come and collect their prepared sharing papers already signed and stamped by them (state government).
In a prepared speech read by their chairman they said the state government deliberately did not implement the 20% harmonisation of pensions for the year 2010 increase to the Local Government/Local Government Education Authority pensioners, inadequate monthly allocation to the Local Government Pensioners and wrongful receipt of London/Paris Club refund of the sum of N3.377billion to third tier of government in Kwara State.
They pleaded to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is known to be the political leader of the state and godfather of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed to prevail on the governor to have a heart of pity on the senior citizens who had served their fatherland in their prime ages only to be subjected to hardships by the state government.
Also they enjoined the Speaker and members of the State House of Assembly as well as notable citizens of Kwara State to plead with the governor to release the noose he had placed on their throats for no just cause.
Reacting in an interview with newsmen, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media and Communications, Dr. Muyideen Akorede said, “Kwara State government does not owe any pensioner any money. It is unfortunate that the pensioners are going through this predicament and the Kwara State government under the governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed.
He denied the state responsibility for the plight of the pensioners saying “while Ahmed is concerned and worried about the plight of the LG workers and pensioners who are being owed monies by the LG councils.”
The state government is not responsible for their plight.
He however did not deny the death of 1,126 of the pensioners but simply said “we commiserate with the families of those who had died. We also console their families and the union of pensioners”