Aggrieved by the continued unfulfilled promises by Governor Seriake Dickson to pay their gratuities, Pensioneers in Bayelsa state took to the streets, barricaded Government House gate as they described his administration as failed one.
The Pensioneers, in their hundreds led by the state Chairman, Chief Emmanuel Namatebe, marched along the streets of Yenagoa with placards bearing different inscriptions such as “retirees want to be paid their retirement benefits in Seriake Dickson time”, “If former Governor Sylva is your enemy pensioneers are not your enemy, pay us our retirement benefits”, ” We are dying one by one, up to 50 deaths are recorded this year” , “some of us were sick, rushed to the hospital but no money to pay our bills even though government has tied down our millions”, ” Governor Dickson where did you keep our N 250 million monthly payment for retirees”, ” Dickson , why denying your parents of their benefits”, ” Dickson pay us our gratuity.No gratuity no election, No second tenure for you”, ” You said you are talk and do Governor but you have failed to pay our gratuity after promising us”, ” retirees are dying every day, please pay us our benefits” etc .
They insisted not to leave the Government House gate if Governor Dickson does not come and address them on reasons behind the delayed payment of their retirement benefits.
Unfortunately the Governor had travelled out of the state the previous day. They were however addressed by some top Government House security men and the Head of Service.
According to them, most Pensioneers have been sick and in most cases haven’t money to pay their hospital bills even though millions of their monies are being tied down by Government.
Deaths have been visiting most members almost every day as a result of High BP and several ailments.
The attitude of some security men at the Government House gate further infuriated the already aggrieved pensioneers as they rained unprintable words against the Governor and other top government officials present including Rtd Col Bernard Kenebai, Bomo Spero- Jack and others who had tough time in calming them.
Among the protesting Pensioneers were Men and women that had retired since 2009.
“I retired since 2009, up till now I haven’t been paid. This has made my wife and Children to desert me, they have all left me even though I have million being tied down by government”, lamented Dighabo Sanne.
The same lamentation came from Mrs. Dora Inamamu and Osain Edmund Enough who also retired since 2009.
Chief Namatebe who spoke on behalf of the group told the Head of Service, Mr Fraser Okworu, stated that the Pensioneers had to go on protest march because Governor haven’t be able to live up to his promise what is due them .
“Governor refuse to comply with his promises to release N300 million every month to the pensioneers.
Namatebe who, however expressed dismay over Governor Dickson’s complain of reduction of state allocation as yardstick for the delayed payment of their gratuities pointed out that the low allocation to the state shouldn’t have anything to do with their gratuities.
“Reduction of allocation has nothing to do with Pensioneers. Cut your coat according to your size”, noted the Pensioneers Chairman who appealed to government to set aside some money for them for monthly payment.
“We appeal to government to release money on monthly bases as it was done by previous governments for payment of pensioneers”.
” Nothing was reflected on the allowances of pensioneers. Millions of our monies are being tied down by Governemt ,many of us have been dying of BP, Diabetes and other diseases”, he further decried .
Responding to the demands, Mr. Okworu, who agreed to most of the demands noted that it was not within his jurisdiction to release money for payment but assured that they would be paid as soon as money is made available to his Six member Committee that has Namatebe as a member.
” Nothing to fault in all what you said because the low allocation to the state has affected the payment”.
“It is not within my powers, if it were within my powers you know I would have paid. If government does not release money how do I pay” noted Okworu who however promised to deliver their message to the Governor.
“If Governor does not release money how do I pay.It is a message , I will relay it to him when he comes back”, added the Head of Service.
In an interview, Okworu also denied allegations that only retired Permanent Secretaries are usually selected for payment.
The aggrieved retirees also alleged that Governor Dickson normally selects only his relatives for payment.Reacting to this allegation, the Head of Service said : “No selective payment, Governor has not directed any special or preferential payment”.
However, after several appeals from Government House security agents, the Pensioneers reluctantly left the seize but promised to come back if no concrete statement was heard from the Governor when he returns.