No fewer than 10,000 pensioners across the 25 local government areas of Niger State have occupied the government house over unpaid pensions and gratuities.
The pensioners had moved from the union’s secretariat to the Government House with placards with inscriptions such as “non-payment of pension is not acceptable,” “Pensioners’ lives matter,” “no gratuity, no pension, no vote in 2023,” and “we shall occupy until Lolo pay,” among others.
They carried out the protest in the heavy rain and remained even after the rain had stopped.
The pensioners, led by Ibrahim Mahmud, told the Secretary to the State Government, Ahmed Matane that they had lost several pensioners due to their inability to get funds to treat themselves when they fall sick.
Mahmud said the government was not sympathetic to their plights and abandoned them without their pensions despite several bailouts and Paris Club funds the state had received.
“We will no longer accept payment of gratuities on percentage. Our brothers, sisters and parents are dying, we are dying, and we have no money to feed our families, pay rent or treat ourselves when we are sick. “The government has abandoned us. We lost two of our pensioners this morning all because they have no money to treat themselves.
“Mr SSG, tell the governor that our protest would continue until we get a concrete resolution. We have over 10,000 pensioners on the ground and we will occupy the Government House until we are paid,” he said.
He described all the explanations given to them by the SSG as ‘political statements, saying that they are resolute and would not return home until they are paid.
“The state has received Paris Club and bailout funds and we did not benefit. You have made beautiful submissions and you expect us to go home and wait. For how long would we wait? Your submissions are far from solving our problems; none of our issues has been resolved. Take your time, we are resolute, we are not going back home, we will be at the gate until we are paid our money because the state is not prepared to pay us,” Mahmud said.
The Secretary to the Niger State Government, Ahmed Matane, who received the pensioners in the Government House, said the government is not aware that there are civil servants who have retired without being paid pensions or gratuities.
He stated that the government has several challenges facing pension issues, adding that the government is working to generate funds to resolve the pension issues in the state.
Matane added that the pension issues would be resolved before the end of the month, even as he appealed to them to go home. He promised that by the end of the month, their issues would be resolved.
“There are a lot of anomalies in the pension system in the state that we are trying to resolve. There are ghost pensioners, there are pensioners who are underpaid, there are pensioners who are collecting more than they are supposed to, there are those who have retired but haven’t collected pension and there is a non-availability of adequate data on pensioners at the local government level.
“The government is not deliberately hurting pensioners, it is doing its best within its available resources. If there is any surplus money, the government puts it into a pension. Before the end of this month, we will address your issues,” Matane pleaded.