Thousands of pensioners under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Imo state chapter, converged at their secretariat, in Area “A”, World Bank Housing Estate, yesterday where they poured encomium on Prof. Protus Nathan Uzorma who came to celebrate his birthday with them and also wished him a “happy and glorious birthday celebration”.
The Union, in an address titled, “happy birthday to our illustrious son”, presented by the state Chairman, Chief Donatus Nwokedi, expressed happiness and consolation, that despite a long standing relationship with Prof. Nathan Uzorma, “the sufferings, starvation and premature deaths of Imo pensioners, have continued to attract the compassion and sympathy of this up-coming dynamic and philanthropic young man, who has chosen to celebrate his birthday with us today”.
He lamented that pensioners in the state are passing through excruciating and traumatizing times “caused by the wickedness and insensitivity of the present administration”. The NUP Chairman disclosed that from January 2017 to 5th March 2018, the Imo state government has paid Imo pensioners only three months pensions out of fifteen months, “and regrettably, many pensioners are still carrying the cheques for the three months arrears about, uncashed”.
Continuing, Chief Nwokedi, said Imo is the only state where pensioners are still owed gratuities from 1998 and nobody whose gratuity is above N500,000 has been paid a kobo in that respect. Besides, pensioners in the state have remained on the same pension rate since the year 2000, because the state government has bluntly refused to harmonize the 6% of 2003, 15%, of 2007 and 33% of 2010.
“As if the suffering, pain and agony inflicted on us is not enough, the state government, in 2016, issued a form that cut our pensions by 60%. The obnoxious and inhuman treatment of 40% pension payment led to three state wide protests by the pensioners, and when the government refused to rescind its decision, the pensioners, with the assistance of free legal aid of the Nigerian Bar Association, approached the National Industrial court, “where our plea was granted and Imo state government ordered to pay us 100% of our pensions. “It is highly regrettable that the state government, has since then, refused to implement the court order in spite of its pretences to the rule of law, due process and the corruption must stop lyrics in the Imo state anthem fashioned by Governor Rochas Okorocha and his cohorts, to hoodwink the people”. They implored the state government to obey the court order and harmonize the pension increases granted by the federal government since 2003.
Some notable politicians, clerics and public spirited individuals present at Prof. Nathan Uzorma’s grand birthday celebration made donations for a trust fund from which sick pensioners will be assisted. The senior citizens appreciated their concern and urged others to emulate Prof. Uzorma and his friend’s philanthropic gestures.
Other dignitaries at the occasion, included former Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Imo state chapter, Chief Fidel Onyeneke, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, who was represented by Chief Otuokere, a retired Permanent Secretary, Rev (Fr.) Prof. Philip Ogbonna of the Imo state University, Owerri, Rev. (Fr.) Prof Obiyo who was the Chairman of the occasion Prof. F.C. Dike (SAN), Chief Ejike Uche (Dimkpasaa), Chief Emeka Diwe, Chief Frank Nneji, Prof. Jude Njoku, Barr. Lizzy Nwokocha, Nollywood actors, Dr. Celestine Izunobi Chime Nzeribe, thousands of pensioners in the state, among others.