UPDATE ON PENSIONERS PROTEST: Okowa Refuses To Meet With Pensioners As Protesters Barricade GovtHouse Gate

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Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, on Wednesday refused to come out of his office to address over 500 retirees who protested to government house over the non payment of their entitlements.

HardReporters correspondent who was on ground for the protest gathered that, Mr. Okowa who had on getting wind of the retirees protest taking off from the labour house, Asaba, sent emissaries to bring two leaders of the retirees for a meeting in his office, but the retirees blatantly refused to honour the governor’s invitation which they perceived was deceptive and went ahead with the protest.

The placard carrying retirees who converged under the Association Of Contributory Retirees, (ACR), described Okowa led government as heartless and inhuman, lamenting that the governor has not deemed it fit to remember them when the federal government released to state bailout funds and the Paris club refund.

Protesting Retirees

In a protest letter signed by the state ACR chairman, Ajueitis Ovwiroro and made available to newsmen, noted that “Retirees under the Contributory Pension Scheme, (CPS), are still being shortchanged. Out of the N10 billion given to Delta state in the third tranche, only a paltry of N300 million was released to retirees out over N20 billion been owed us.Ten years after the Contributory Pension Scheme, (CPS), came into force in Delta state, the government is still grappling with the issues in a scheme that is supposed to be auto-run.

“The former governor, Emmanuel said in 2014 that Delta state government has contributed over N18 billion (10%) to the Contributory Pension Scheme, (CPS), with workers contributing N13.7 billion, (7.5%) this money, according to him, is with the pension fund custodians. Even with the huge savings, retirees were not paid as at when due from then till date.”

According to Mr. Ovwiroro, Okowa has “Refused to pay the mandatory 5% of the monthly wage bill of its employees into Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund, (RBBRF) account with the Central Bank of Nigeria as stipulated by law thereby causing us untold hardship as there is no savings to fall back to. It is sad to note that as at September, 2017 contributory retirees in the state are still waiting for the implementation of the agreement reached with former governor Uduaghan, NLC, and the chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council for the release of N500 million monthly into the Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund, (RBBRF) account with the Central Bank of Nigeria to settle the payments of the retirement benefits to contributory retirees.

Protesting retirees at the Delta state House of Assembly waiting for the speaker to address them

The retirees placards which read, “Dr. Okowa’s inordinate ambition for a 2019 second tenure will be an exercise in futility if retirees are not paid their pension benefits and harmonisation.”, “Okowa where is the bailout fund and Paris club refund to pay contributory retirees.” “Okowa what is the crime of retirees, after serving Delta state for 35 years,” “The wrath of God is upon you Okowa for punishing retirees”, “Okowa you are heartless”, “Paris club and bailout are palliative for workers salaries and pensioners, Okowa pay us”, among others, stressed that Contributory Pension Scheme was a scam and monumental failure.

As at the time of filing in this report, the protesters who were earlier addressed by the Delta state house of Assembly speaker, Mr. Sheriff Oborevwori, moved down to the government house gate where governor Okowa refused to come out to address them over their earlier refusal to send two of their leaders for a meeting with him.

Our correspondent reports that Chief of Staff to the governor, the Head of Service, Mr. Reginald Bayoko and the state Attorney General and commissioner for Justice, Mr. Peter Mrakpor who came to address the retirees were chased away, as the retirees said unless the governor personally come out to address them, they won’t give audience to any government official.

Retirees displaying placards with different inscriptions during the protest.

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