By Yetunde Oladejo, Osogbo
Barely 24 hours after the Osun State government confirmed the receipt of the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds, retirees in the state on Wednesday took their protest to the state secretariat, Abere asking Governor Rauf Aregbesola to pay their one year arrears or they would make the state ungovernable for him.
This is the second time in a month retirees would embark on a peaceful protest to demand payment of the arrears of their pensions and gratuities.
The pensioners, under the aegis of the 2011/2012 Forum of Pensioners in Osun State, numbering over 1,000 converged in front of the state secretariat complex, as early as 8:00am, preventing civil servants and other government functionaries from entering their offices.
Chanting anti-government songs and carrying placards with various inscriptions, they vowed to make the state ungovernable for Aregbesola if he fails to pay their outstanding pension allowances from the second tranche of the Paris loan refund.
Vehicular movement was also restricted from the Owode end of the Gbongan-Ibadan Expressway for almost two hours that the protest lasted.
Speaking with journalists during the protest, chairman of 2011/2012 Forum of Pensioners in Osun State, Comrade Omoniyi Ilesanmi said, “we are the people who worked diligently after the creation of Osun State. Aregbesola should use the N6.3billion Paris loan refund he just got to pay us our pension allowance; otherwise he would find this state ungovernable.”
Ilesanmi who quoted from Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, which he said states that anybody in the public service, local, state or federal is entitled to his or her benefit in form of pension and gratuity after retirement, stressed that “Aregbesola has failed in all ramifications.”
According to him, “he has been paying us half pension allowance monthly since July 2015, which is contrary to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended. If you go to the market, prices of all commodities have gone up. The full pension allowance is not even enough, not to talk of half pension since July, 2015. Right now, he owes us unpaid one year pension allowance.
“We need to continue this agitation. Over 2,000 of our members have died. Just the day before yesterday, we lost another pensioner in Ede and about 800 retirees are bedridden, while some are married to their wheelchairs. This is sheer wickedness! Where was Aregbesola when this state was created and we laboured to ensure its survival and development only to be treated like this?” he lamented.
But the government in a swift reaction, said that the protesting group of pensioners must apologise to Osun people for misinforming them over the Paris Club Refunds they claimed that the state had received a month ago.
The government through the Director, Bureau of Communication and Strategy to Aregbesola, Mr Semiu Okanlawon in a statement made available to newsmen in Osogbo said that “it is interesting to note that about a month ago, this same set of pensioners accused Governor Rauf Aregbesola of collecting and diverting the second tranche of Paris loan refund, which they claimed had been released to Osun State by the federal government.
“As they have come out today, the elderly citizens should apologise not only to Aregbesola, but also to the good people of Osun State for misinforming, confusing and creating tension in the state through their false claim that the governor had received the second tranche of Paris loan refund about a month ago.
“Osun State government, with its commitment to transparency under the leadership of Governor Rauf Aregbesola made the announcement yesterday (Tuesday) to confirm the receipt of N6.314billion as the second tranche of Paris loan refund from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
“The money was paid into the account of the state government on Monday and we duly made the announcement yesterday, informing the public that Osun has got the second tranche of Paris loan refund.
“In line with our government’s promise to utilise the resources of this state in the best interest of our people, we hereby restate our commitment to this promise as we begin shortly transparent deployment on our commitments to the concerned stakeholders.”