Retirees in Delta State under the umbrella of the Association Of Contributory Retirees, (ACR) embarked on a protest against Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on Wednesday over the termed non-payment of their entitlements.
The protesters, who marched with placards through major roads in Asaba, accused the governor of embezzling all the tranches of the Paris Club refund and bailout fund released to the state by the federal government.
“Even with the third tranche of the bailout fund by the federal government, 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 N300 million was released to retirees out over N20 billion owed to us,” one protester told our correspondent.
While expressing bitterness over the non-payment of the entitlements due to them, the retirees said they can no longer take care of their families, pay house rents, school fees, and other expenses. Some retirees have even died from hunger or sickness, they said.
“Ten years after the 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,” a retiree said.
The leader of the group, Comrade Ajueitis Ovwiroro, who led the protesters to the State House of Assembly, addressed the speaker, Sheriff Oborevwori.
"The Contributory Pension Scheme is a monumental failure in Delta as the governor has persistently flaunted the rules of the scheme. He has refused to the mandatory 5 percent of the monthly wage bill of its employees into the Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund (RBBRF) account with the Central Bank of Nigeria as stipulated by law, thereby causing us untold hardship as there are no savings to fall back to,” he told the speaker.
“It is sad to note that as of September 2017, contributory retirees in the state are still waiting for the implementation of the agreement reached with former Governor Uduaghan, the NLC, and the chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council for the release of N500 million monthly into the Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund account with the Central Bank of Nigeria to settle the payments of the retirement benefits to contributory retirees.”
The protesters also lamented the Delta State government’s irregular payment of the 10 percent pension fund contribution into the Retirement Saving Accounts (RSA) of contributors who are civil servants.
They called on Governor Okowa to issue an irrevocable standing payment order to the accountant general that would dedicate N500m monthly from the state revenue allocation towards the payment of pensions until the debts are liquidated.
The retirees also called for the immediate harmonization of all retirees’ payments under the CPS and to revert to the pay-as-you-go pensions scheme until the state government is ready for the CPS.
At the government house gate, the protesting retirees rebuffed the chief of staff to the governor, Mr. Brisibe, and the Delta State attorney general and commissioner for justice, Peter Mrakpor, who came to address them. The protesters insisted that apart from the governor they would not listen to anyone.