Akin Akande, Abuja
For substantial parts of Tuesday, official activities were paralysed at the headquarters of Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) Area 11, Abuja when retired workers of the service staged a protest to demand for payment of their various entitlements.
Comprising of old men, women as well as middle aged persons, the protesters blocked the main entrance of NIPOST headquarters carrying placards with various inscriptions.
The protesters who insisted they would not leave until their benefits are paid came with foods, bags of pure water as well as personal effects with which they said they would survive with while the protest last.
They accused the management of NIPOST of neglecting them after they had earlier tabled their demands before the Postmaster General of the Federation, Malam Ibrahim Mori Baba.
Leader of the protesting pensioners, Aminu Adamu who is also the Vice Chairman of Kaduna state chapter of National Union of Pensioners, NIPOST quoted the Postmaster General of the Federation that the benefits would be paid when the budget is passed noting that nothing has been done since February when they (pensioners) held a meeting with him.
He said they would not leave the NIPOST headquarters until their demands are met adding that the protest was a warning as other branches of the union would join nationwide.
“NIPOST management has refused to pay us our benefits: arrears, pension, severance salary, harmonisation and others since 2011.
The 2011 salary has not been paid to us as I’m talking to you. We are all retired workers; those who retired in 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2007 are all there”.
However, while addressing press on the demands of the protesters, the Postmaster General of the Federation, Malam Ibrahim Baba Mori explained that necessary actions are being taken by the NIPOST management to ensure that the pensioners’ entitlements are paid.
Speaking through the Assistant Postmaster General Territorial Operations, Yacim Bitiyong, Malam Baba Mori expressed surprise at the protest noting that his team had a meeting with the leadership of National Union of Pensioners, NIPOST chapter over the demands of the pensioners.
He said a circular was issued at the end of the meeting with the leaders of the pensioners last week even as he expressed surprise over the protest which according to him ought not have come up.
His words: “Last week, the National Union of Pensioners NIPOST branch met with the management of NIPOST. At that meeting meeting various issues as presented by the pensioners were discussed in details.
These issues as they presented them were called burning issues affecting them. Management is aware is a national issue and is handled by the government at the centre through various agencies of the government.
The approach of the management of NIPOST is that of understanding of the pensioners, understanding of the situation in each and every agency of government that is involved in the issue of pension payment.”
While saying that NIPOST was aware of the contentious nature of pension in the country, the Postmaster General lamented that the NIPOST incurred loss that ran into millions of naira when aggrieved pensioners shut down its offices nationwide.
He however gave assurance that the federal government is leaving no stone unturned to solve all the pension related problems in the country.
Speaking also, Habila Tanko, Senior Assistant Postmaster General, Pension Administration disclose that the severance allowance of NIPOST right sized in 2006 have been paid noting that those shortchanged in the payment exercise would be adequately paid.
He said the N1.7billion budgeted for the payment of entitlements of the pensioners is currently with the Budget Office adding that NIPOST has facilitated all the processes that will lead to the payment.