There was a mild-drama yesterday as security agents locked out protesting pensioners at the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State. The pensioners, under the auspices of Local Government Pensioners Association (LOGPAN), accused Governor Dapo Abiodun of “playing dangerously” with their lives. The pensioners, in execution of their threat to shut down the Governor’s Office, stormed the State Secretariat with mats and wrappers to protest the governor’s alleged refusal to pay their gratuities. The aggrieved protesters, armed with placards, arrived at the entrance of the Secretariat as early as 8am.
But the senior citizens met a brick wall at the gate when armed security personnel, allegedly acting on the orders of the governor, hurriedly locked the gate against the protesters. The state LOGPAN Chairman, Sikiru Ayilara, and other members of the association engaged the security personnel in a heated argument. Enraged by the act, Ayilara attempted to force the gate open, raining curses, but the security agents comprising police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and private security guards, did not budge.
The pensioners spread their mats and wrappers in front of the gate and sat there, insisting that they would not leave until Abiodun acceded to their demands. Workers were left stranded with government activities paralysed momentarily. The protest climaxed the three days fasting declared by the pensioners over the backlog of unpaid gratuities. Ayilara told journalists that the pensioners wanted to stage a peaceful protest. He said: “We introduced ourselves to them, we don’t have cutlasses, we don’t have ordinary sticks in our hands, and we just wanted to make the people know the treatment being melted to us as pensioners in this state.
“The suffering we are experiencing from this and the previous administration is too much.” Ayilara said his members were hurt by the nonchalant attitude of the governor to their demands, which included non-payment of gratuities, lateness and non-increment in the monthly pensions and discrimination against the members by the government, among others. He accused Abiodun of “playing dangerously with the lives of the members” by refusing to pay their gratuities on time. The association insisted that the quarterly payment of N500 million by the governor, which by calculation would take 34 years to clear all the gratuities, was unacceptable.
The pensioners called for the review of the policy by voting N1 billion monthly instead of payment of N500 million quarterly which would take 34 years to clear the outstanding. Aso, one of the pensioners, Mrs. Theresa Fatokun, said, “we are staying here, we are ready to sleep here. Let him (the governor) kill us like chickens; we are ready because we are suffering”. She added: “We are really in pain, in agony, we are suffering. For somebody who has retired for the past 11 years and he or she has not received his or her gratuity, imagine a pensioner earning N5,000 per month with this present situation of the country. “And we have been appealing to our governor to please pity us and have mercy on us; some of us are dying daily. When they started paying the gratuities some of us received it in their graves. How can we continue like that?” But addressing the pensioners, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Tokunbo Talabi, appealed to them to be patient with the government, as the government would address their demands. He said: “We want you to be patient with us.
You will recall that when we started paying what we agreed to pay, we started paying from 2011 to 2014, we didn’t pay from 2019 the year we came in. We all know what the country is saying now when it comes to money. We are promising you that with time we would do more concerning what we agreed to be paying. “We just have to be realistic with ourselves, the money cannot be paid at once or the way you want it, but if you are patient it could be sorted out. We just have to be patient because we are just two years in government and we have to touch some sectors of the economy also like road infrastructure so that we can get money to do things.”