Some pensioners in Osun State have lamented continued neglect and refusal of the state government to pay their pensions for five years.
The pensioners who retired as primary school teachers told SaharaReporters that they have been living on benevolence from friends and family members.
A retiree, Oyadare Gbenga, who was a headteacher at Young Primary school, Iragberi in Osun state, described the plight of the pensioners as pitiable.
He said: “Our plight in Osun State today is that we have been turned into beggars because we have not been paid for the past five years, from 2016 till date. Government owes us pensions and gratuities.
“Most of us are bedridden, many of us have collapsed at home. Stroke has claimed their hands and legs; many are now blind – total blindness. I'm not talking of visual impairment; I’m talking about total blindness. Our children have been driven out of school, even government schools. That is the situation we're passing through, our children who are graduates are still looking for jobs. We still have to cater for them.
“Our condition is so pathetic that we are living on alms. Sometimes, we rely on our brothers, sisters, friends, but for how long can they do that? We have been at home for five years now, it's very pathetic and we are pleading so that people can intervene and prevail on the governor to make available a lump sum. To pay 4,000 people in primary schools only, we are talking about a lot of money.”
Speaking with SaharaReporters, Oyadare said the pensioners had advised the government to pay half salary arrears it owed them during the tenure of the past governor of the state, Rauf Aregbesola, who paid only a fraction of their salaries to them.
According to Oyadare, the current governor, Gboyega Oyetola, only paid 46 pensioners of the 4,000 affected people.
He said: “Out of about 4, 000 pensioners from primary schools, government paid only 46 last week. We insisted that they should start paying our half salary arrears. They started in December but only one half is paid off till now. They owed us 29 months’ salary arrears during the days of (Rauf) Aregbesola, they paid us half salary for 36 months so it remains 29 months to complete the payment. This is for contributory pensioners.
“We told them to start paying the half salary and they started in December but they have not completed one half salary, they just paid for a few people. When the salary for December was paid, they started, when January salary was paid, they paid some people, they are planning to pay February salary now, we are asking them to let it go round for everybody. They are still on it.
“We live on benevolence, what we are doing now is to make our voices heard so that people will prevail on the governor to go the extra mile to pay us. The issue of no money is no longer relevant, they should get the money and pay us. If they get money to do things in the town, they should get money and pay us too. That is the point we are making and we are struggling to get people who will help us make our voices heard.”
Oyadare revealed that there was a plan to send delegates to Abuja so as to prevail on the governor to pay the pensioners.
According to him, primary school pensioners are lamenting because secondary school teachers have been paid up to June 2017 while local government workers have been paid up to 2018.
He said, “You see the disparity? If primary school teachers are aggrieved, I think you can see now that they have reasons, that's why we are aggrieved because we are lagging behind so much.”
Another pensioner, Ishola Olagoke said many pensioners are unable to cover their medical bills irrespective of how little the bill is.
He also said the pensioners had been listening to radio broadcasts but was of the opinion that the media was only propagating fallacies to favour the government.
The 2016 retiree said, “Government is paying peanuts, there's nothing to encourage us. We live on benevolence, Many are unable to support their medical bills, no matter how little the amount is. It's very difficult because for over 5 years now, we have been in a terrible situation.
“Many have died because of N500 worth of drugs. We have been listening to radio announcements here and there coming out from the state government, all they are saying is just a cover-up. The government said they had paid off pensioners, it's a lie, it's fallacy.
“Even only one month which they have started paying, they haven't settled in totality. Assuming they have completed the first month payment, we will be looking forward to another payment.
“It's those that are concerned that can talk about these things, not the news media, the government owns the radio station, they have to report news that will favour the government.”
The development comes despite claims by the state government that it had commenced payment of arrears owed the pensioners.
Oyetola had reportedly released a total sum of seven hundred and eight million naira (N708,000,000) recently to offset pension arrears of retired officers of the state civil service.
The government had said the sum of five hundred and eight million naira (N508,000,000) of the released sum was approved for the payment of retired civil servants, while an additional sum of one hundred and fifty million naira (N 150,000,000) was approved for the payment of retirees under the contributory pensions scheme while fifty million naira (N50,000,000) was approved for the payment of gratuities of retired officers under the old pension scheme.
The governor also said his administration had released about N31 billion to cater for pensioners, including N26 billion for pensioners under the old pension scheme and about N5 billion for those under the contributory scheme.