Osun State pensioners operating on the platform of 2011/2012 Forum of Retired Public Servants in Osun State on Wednesday took to the streets to protest non payment of their pensions for 13 and-a-half months.
The protesters were armed with placards with various inscriptions as they took off from Ayetoro Junction and marched to the popular Olaiya Junction where they addressed journalists.
Leaders of the pensioners’ group said the protest was fueled by the death rate among their members, especially the death of a retired headmaster in Ejigbo Local Government Area of the state, Lukman Odewole, who recently hanged himself because he was sick and could not take care of himself as well as his wife and a child, who were all sick at the same time.
One of the leaders of pensioners’ group, Mr. Yemi Lawal, told our correspondent that Odewole, who retired from Young Tajudeen Primary School in Masifa, Ejigbo Local Government, decided to take his life because of financial hardship.
Lawal, who blamed the nonpayment of 13-and-a-half month pensions by the Osun State Government for Odewole’s case, added that over 2,500 pensioners had died since 2013 because of nonpayment of their gratuities and pensions.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene, while urging the President not to release further intervention fund to the state government for fear of being diverted.
He said, “We are appealing to President Buhari to save us from Aregbesola. We are being owed pension arrears of 13 and a half months and gratuities.
“Some of our members are sick, but there is no money for treatment. We have lost over 2,500 members since 2013 and one of our members in Ejigbo committed suicide because of financial hardship.
“We want the Federal Government to conduct workers and pensioners’ audit to know the exact number of pensioners and workers.
“We also plead with the President not to pay further intervention fund meant for salary and pension to Osun State Government because the money will be diverted just as the previous funds were diverted.”
The Secretary of the Forum, Mr. Sola Olojede, while also speaking with our correspondent, added that the retired headmaster committed suicide on September 29 at Masifa in Ejigbo because of financial hardship.
But the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Adelani Baderinwa, described the group of pensioners as politicians who were in the habit of blackmailing the governor.
He said, “As a government, we categorically state that government has paid workers and pensioner up to date with the modulated structure agreed upon by the government and the labour unions since 2015.
“Government does not owe any worker or pensioner based on the modulated payment scheme as the pensioners have alleged.
“We wish to put it on record that (Governor Rauf) Aregbesola increased the amount being paid as pension by 500 per cent in 2011. The nonpayment of gratuity is not peculiar to Osun; and the government has shown its readiness to pay the gratuity as soon as the state’s finances improve.
“It is on record that this group of pensioners had, at one time or the other in the past, lied against the Government of the State of Osun; and in specific reference they had alleged that government collected a tranche of the Paris Club refund and diverted it, only to have a whole month wait for the actual release of the fund.”