Towards the end of 2017 a team of journalists both working and veterans who were highly concerned about the state of the nation, with peculiar interest in Imo, took independent tours of a number of states in the federation with the aim of getting first hand information of how things are in the country and to make public the result of their investigation. However as part of the preamble, this column wants to highlight a few observations made during the visits for the interest of Imolites, most of who are confined in their hallowed and glorified empires. The team was able to visit Lagos via Ogun, Ekiti, Cross River via Akwa-Ibom, Ebonyi though Anambra, then Bauchi, Plateau, Kano, Kastina and Sokoto states.
In all, we unveiled some facts, truths and ironies as they relate to our dear Imo State and on our return, this column was privileged to vision a collection of men of higher orders with prophetic utterances on this beloved state. They included Dibias, monks prophets, Ifa priests, babalawos and other gurus, dreaming of catastrophe doom, streets flowing with blood and lamentations of citizens has never been witnessed before, not even during the fratricidal war. These men of higher spiritual orders called for prayers, repentance, restitutions and re-order from the citizens of the state and their leaders to avert the impending doom for the blood of many who were sent to their untimely graves in the enslaved are crying to heaven for vengeance. They included all categories of workers serving and retired, artisans, professionals, traders, widows, farmers, high profile technocrats, industrialists and politicians.
During the earlier mentioned trips’, we discovered that Owerri nay Imo is the fastest developing state with highest manpower, with the longest annual holidays and the highest remunerations, with the best democratically organized labour unions and state House of assembly where dead or retired workers resurrect daily, according to government. “The first and only state that practices free, qualitative education and where there are no applicants seeking for jobs and water flows in every woman’s kitchen”.
But what baffles one is that the state that says it does not owe workers a dime, on the 1st of January this year, as a new year gift, directed the over 30,000 retired Imo workers to yet another round of torture called verification exercise, with a promise to pay them. Our question therefore goes to this rescue mission government, have the retired Imo workers done that is unpardonable, that these fragile, frail and ebbling men and women have been tortured for four years now. What tribulations or punishment have not been meted out to them?
Some have been sentenced to untimely death while others were asked to carry their mats to the grave yards. Many have been exposed to accidents, hunger, starvation, disease and isolation all for the mere fact that they were not able to use their wits, acumen and knowledge to loot the common treasury while in service. That they did not know how to accumulate ill gotten wealth but like their other soldier compatriots, decided to sacrifice their youthfull days in the service of their fatherland. However we are made to understand that a labourer rightly deserves his wage and the Imo pensioner is one who also deserves his full and other accrued wages. Since 2015 both monthly pension and gratuity, have hardly been paid to these ebbing patriots who devoted all strength and energy for our good.
One wonders if there is a retired pensioner in Imo State who is not owed a huge sum, when appropriately and accurately computed. These workers were not the cause of the nation’s woes and if they were, they ought to be pardoned and rescued by no other person than the Senior Advocate of the Masses and principal of Rescue Mission Agenda.
Since the Rescue Mission Government came on board in May 2001, it has launched several hurtful or harmful attacks on retirees of the state establishments culminating in over 13 recorded verification exercises and formed about six types of pension reconciliation committees headed in all instances by non-professionals in Accounting or Personnel management and at the same time adopted uncountable methods of payments, all aimed at witch hunting or shortchanging these elder statesmen. The official functions of the state pensions and the local government boards have been erased or usurped by various quasi outfits with the boards rendered impotent to the point that retirees’ emoluments and benefits are arbitrarily computed without formula and. Since 2014 fresh retirees are rarely captured under the new payment schemes, while the older ones can hardly tell you what they are being owed. Sometimes in the past, payment was made through executive secretaries of CGC. At other times through the LGA treasurers, but at another time via political appointees of the SDC, and in the last quarter of 2017, government chose a central payment point after another round of verification at the IICC, Owerri, an exercise that resulted to debilitating inflictions on these men that are yet to be healed.
In 2016, it was a compulsory 60% cut in payment of pensions, thus compelling the afflicted to seek court intervention to stop the injustice. In 2017, it was 3 months taxed payment for one year. Yet on the first day of this year, government started another round of dribbling with these men and women in Imo state as if they are criminals.
What did pensioners do to Okorocha and what is that sin that cannot be pardoned?