Pensioners from the Bayelsa State Chapter of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) were beaten up by thugs under the watch of security operatives deployed to the entrance of the Bayelsa Government House on Monday.
SaharaReporters gathered that the aggrieved senior citizens blocked the entrance to the Government House in the State over unpaid pension arrears.
Some of the pensioners sustained injuries when they were manhandled by thugs believed to be supporters of Governor Seriake Dickson, who only a fortnight ago declared that the State can no longer meet its salary obligations to civil servants.
Joe Ebi, a 69-year-old pensioner, said that the youths were incurring curses on themselves for beating up elders who were old enough to be their grandfathers.
“It is very worrisome the way that sycophancy has become a trade for the youths. Some of us who were trying to assist the injured ones were pushed down by these boys saying that we are embarrassing the State government.
“They were doing this in the presence of security guards on duty, which confirms to us that they are working for the State…If anything happens to these old men, their blood will be on the hands of these misguided boys,” Ebi said.
The pensioners say the welfare of their members, who had served the State in various capacities, was a legitimate one and was not negotiable.
The pensioners displayed placards with inscriptions such as “Pay us our pensions,” “Dickson, pay us our gratuities,’’ and “Be good to pensioners who voted you in.”
The Union’s Caretaker Committee Chairman, Mr. Bodi Amarah, condemned the assault on his members and said the protest was to call the government’s attention to the non-payment of members’ pension for five months.
“We have not been paid our pensions for five months now and some of us have not received our gratuity at all. The Bayelsa government should pay us our money,” he said.
Mr. Amarah then told members of the media that it was unacceptable that protesters gathered to bring attention to the non-payment of pensions only to be attacked by thus. He added, “all our placards have been destroyed by the [thugs]. One of our members who was beaten is currently receiving treatment in the hospital.”
Mr. Amarah then told our correspondent that there was blood on his clothes from the attack. Despite this, he continued to challenge the State government and said that the protesters would still try to have an audience with Governor Dickson.
When contacted, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Dickson, admitted that the State government owes pensioners payments.
He denied, however, allegations of youths beating up pensioners, saying that the claims of assault and beating at the government house gate were ‘misleading.’