Wale Ibrahim, Lokoja
Apparently disturbed by lackadaisical attitude of the Kogi State government towards, the plight of the senior citizens in the State, the pensioners have protested non payment of 22 months pension and gratuity arrears. The pensioners from various part of the State had gathered in Lokoja, the Kogi State Capital to press home for immediate payment of the outstanding pension arrears over period of time. It was gathered that this would be the third time this year when pensioners in Kogi State took to the streets of Lokoja, the state capital to protest the non-payment of their pension arrears and entitlements for 22 months by the state government. The protest by the pensioners, it was learnt might not be unconnected with recent challenge by Senator Dino Melaye, that Governor Yahaya Bello should explain to the people what he did with the Paris Club refund to the state, since he has failed to pay pensioners their entitlements. The Senator representing Kogi West senatoriaI District at Natioal Assembly, Melaye had in a chat with newsmen while reacting to the plight of the pensioners who took to the streets after exhausting a seven-day ultimatum given to Governor Bello to redeem his promise of paying them. “All I can say is that holding public office is not just an end, it is a means to an end. People must be accountable for their actions. It is true that the Federal Government released the Paris Fund refund to Kogi State and some other states. “It is also true that till date, the governor has refused to pay pensioners, using the first tranche of that release by the Federal Government. Kogi State has since received other allocations but has not attended to the needs of our pensioners. “I want to challenge Yahaya Bello to explain to Kogi people what he has used the Paris fund to do and he should commence the process of paying pensioners without further delay.” The senior citizens who occupied the sub treasury office, lamented that after serving the state meritoriously, it was disheartening that the Kogi State Government had decided to abandon them at this time of their lives. The retirees who were led by its state chairman, Alhaji Alhassan Manma, decried the inability of the state government to pay their pension and gratuities, despite the bailout funds made available by the Federal Government, stressing that the unwillingness of the state government to account for the bailout funds leaves much to be desired. The Senior Citizens expressed deep regret over the non-payment of their entitlements, a situation they said has caused them untold hardship, pains,agonizing situations therefore, called on Governor Bello to do the needful by paying their pension allowances to enable them address their various needs. They also called for the immediate regularization of the payment of the monthly pensions to the local government council pensioners as against the current practice which leaves much to be desired. They lamented that some of their members have met their untimely death, following the inability to pay their pension arrears by the State government. “Some of our children have dropped out of schools because we could not pay school fees, while some girls child have been impregnated because they sent out of schools. The worst scenario was inability to pay medical bills,this it was gathered had responsible for the death of several pensioners in the. While shylock landlords have sent our members out because of unpaid rents,the protester stressed.