[OPINION] RECOUNTING THE TRAVAILS OF RETIREES IN ABIA STATE

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Sam Ogbonna

By Sam Ogbonna

It is not news that for the past eight years, retirees in Abia State have witnessed hell on earth.

Sequel to the exit of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu on the 29th of May, 2007, as the Executive Governor of Abia State, the fate of retirees became bleak. We may recall that throughout the eight years of Orji Uzor Kalu as the Governor of Abia State, civil and public servants, including pensioners religiously enjoyed their statutory payments, and most civil servants built their personal residential houses and bought cars, which later became a taboo for a Civil Servant, to live a modest life .

When Chief T.A. Orji (Ochendo Global) took over from his Master and the Grand Master of Abia politics, at least the first four years, he maintained the tempo. However, things turned around when he said that he had liberated from what I don’t know and the sycophants around him reminded him that retirees are dead woods who do not add value to his administration despite their serving the state in various capacities with all their requisite knowledge and what pained most people was that Chief T.A. was one of their own and he closed his eyes to implement obnoxious policy that was introduced for a purpose by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the then President of Nigeria.

Regrettably, this draconian eight year compulsory retirement was for Permanent Secretaries at the Federal Civil Service, but was adopted for a purpose in God’s own State up to Directors for a purpose best known to that administration.The rest is history as many who did not envisage such obnoxious policy did not live to tell their stories.

Events turned around negatively as that administration was about to wind up in 2014 and the policy was suspended probably when the ulterior motive had been achieved.That policy increased the number of retirees and the government of the day could not contain the huge wage bill of the senior citizens, hence the outstanding six months of pension in Abia State, which was inherited by subsequent administration under the watch of Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu who also came from the Public Sector as a Teacher. Many people felt that a Messiah had come considering the fact that the biological parents of the governor were also retirees.

Regrettably, that administration that ought to have put smiles on the faces of those who used their youthful age to serve their state, turned blind eyes towards the plight of pensioners and cared less about their sufferings. It got to a point that pensioners received half of their monthly pension. As though it was a child’s play, pensioners started receiving less than half until it culminated into paying less than half every quarter which lasted for almost three years. What a heartless development!

I thank God that whatsoever fruit anyone sows, he or she must reap same.

The people of Abia State registered their disgust including the presumed “dead woods” and kicked out an administration that had no meek of human feelings towards the deplorable state of these aged individuals who resigned to fate.

In May, 2023 when Dr. Alex Chioma Otti, OFR, took over the mantle of leadership, he promised to make payment of salaries and pensions his priority and many took that promise with a pinch of salt. However,the tidings changed when in March, 2023, many pensioners who for the past four years have not seen 500k en bloc started seeing something strange in their various bank accounts and it was like a day dream.

Though, I am not a Member of the Governor’s political party, encomiums were showered on him for such benevolence, despite the fact that it was blown out of proportion.

Nevertheless, the Governor deserves a standing ovation as he did what Napoleon could not do for many years. As though, he was not done, he promised to pay pensioners alongside those in active service and I am glad to state here without equivocation that Dr Alex Otti, the Executive Governor of Abia State has lived up to his promise. Not only did he pay pensioners as promised, he paid full pension, something that has been a mirage.

Though, it is the statutory right of any worker and pensioner to receive his wage, but those who withheld same, felt that they were doing them unmerited favour by even the less than half payment, and that’s why it seemed as though the governor who comes from a private sector has shown the difference. Both Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Dr Alex Otti are from the private sector while Chief T .A. Orji and Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu came from the Public Sector.

My dear readers, what’s your take? Pensioners, choose whom you shall vote for in subsequent elections.

On a final note, I urge the Governor to sustain the tempo and endeavor to clear the remaining arrears and equally keep to his promise of paying gratuities which was hitherto paid based on whom you have and know.Though, human beings are insatiable, let the needful be done for posterity.

Chief Sam Ogbonnna Esq.JP wrote from Umuahia, Abia State.

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