By Gabriel Enogholase, Ozioruva Aliu
COMMERCIAL and human vehicular movements were yesterday, disrupted for hours in Oba Ovonramwen square popularly called Ring Road in Benin City, Edo State, as pensioners in their numbers blocked all adjoining roads over unpaid gratuities, non-harmonization of pensions among other welfare issues.
Meanwhile, during the peaceful protest, a male retiree (name withheld) collapsed and was rushed to the nearby hospital for treatment.
The peaceful protest led to traffic congestion on major roads such as Sapele Road, Sakponba, Ekehuan, Uselu-Ugbowo axis and Airport Road linking the city centre, and hindered the free flow of movements by commuters plying the roads to their respective destinations.
The protesters, dressed in black attires, chanted songs such as “We shall overcome,” and carried placards with inscriptions such as “Pensioners need gratuity to take care of our health and our family,” “Pay our gratuity and harmonize our monthly pension,” among others.
They appealed to the state government to accede to their demands as things were going too rough for them.
The senior citizens under the umbrella of Association of Retired Civil Servants Welfare of Nigeria, ARCSWON, in Edo State lamented that their allowances were far depleted by inflation and expensive cost of daily living.
Yusuf Bako, the spokesperson of the pensioners, kicked against illegal deduction from their monthly pensions and urged the state government to urgently effect harmonization owing to the diminishing purchasing power of Naira.
Bako, a former chairman of, Association of Senior Civil Servants in Edo State, threatened that the next protest would be a mother of all protests if the state government fails to grant their request.
Also, speaking to journalists, one of the protesters, Gordon Osamunyi said: “We are all pensioners that are alive, we all have issues with the state government, ranging from harmonization and consequential adjustment of the N30,000 minimum wage and every pensioner that is still alive today has issues with the government.
“There is no harmonization of pensions which has led to people who retired on the same salary grade level earn the same pension irrespective of the time they retired. This is in the constitution but the Edo State government has not done so. There are increases that would have harmonized salaries but they were not done dating back to the period of Lucky Igbinedion.”
Addressing the pensioners, Osaro Washington, a representative of the Edo State Pension Bureau, assured that all hands are on deck to sort the issues raised by the aggrieved senior citizens.