Editorial: Between Wike and Rivers Pensioners

Rivers State is in the news again for a very wrong reason. The state government in its wisdom or lack of it thereof has been at loggerheads with aged pensioners over the inability of the state government to pay pensions.

The state government, through the office of the Head of Service, a week ago, said that the government has set up another biometric exercise for retired pensioners, but there is a problem.

According to some of the pensioners, the latest biometric exercise makes it the fourth since they began clamouring for their entitlements. This they said, is wrong given the fact that some of them are currently nursing several degrees of illnesses and will not be able to respond to the government’s call for biometric verification anytime it deems fit.

The pensioners who stated that some of their members have died due to the inability of the government to pay the over 70 billion it owes them have carried out a series of protests in Port Harcourt.

The government has said that it is not the cause of the problem and has blamed its inability to pay the retirees their pension on a certain law that was enacted in 2012 during the administration of the current minister of transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, adding that until such a law is changed, it will not be able to meet its own financial commitment to the retired senior citizens. It also said that it inherited over 6 months pension arrears from the past government.

The law, in quote, mandates PENCOM to pay the pensioners their entitlement but PENCOM has said that the state government has not been able to meet its own financial obligation to the scheme and cannot pay the retirees their own pension contributions until when the law that mandates it to pay both the government’s pension contribution and that of the individual pensioners is changed.

What is sad is the fact that people who served the state diligently are dying due to the inability of the state to pay them their entitlements. This attitude of government creates the impression that you need to soil your hands while in office so as to escape a horrible end as being experienced by Rivers Pensioners.

State government should as a matter of urgency settle issues with these senior citizens. They committed no crimes at all in rendering their intellectual and physical services to the state. They need their rewards not in heaven but here and it has to be done before the state is fully plunged into 2019 political activities.

It is their rights and not their privileges.

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