Pensioners, who retired from the Cross River Civil Service from 2012 to 2016, on Wednesday embarked on a peaceful protest over the non-payment of their gratuities.
The protesters were carrying different placards like: ‘Gratuity is our right, not a privilege;’ ‘give us our right while we are alive;’ ‘Labour stop fighting retires over gratuities;’ ‘Our children and wards are out of schools’ among others.
Coordinator of the retirees, Mr Paul Idagu, 60, who retired from the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation in 2013, told newsmen during the protest that life after service without money has not been easy.
“Four years after I retired from the service, life has not been easy.
“I find it very difficult to pay my children`s school fees and other relatives who are depending on me.
“About two weeks ago, I heard of two people who died while battling with different illness.
‘‘It is so unfortunate that the government is not responsive in looking into the plight of retirees,’’ he said.
Another retiree, Mr Paul Ogbeche, who retired in December, 2013, accused the state government of not responding to the plight of retirees in the state.
“We have written to the state government, advising it to be setting aside some money received from the federal allocation for the payment of pension and gratuities in the state, but to no avail.
“We were told that so much money has been kept in a bank for the payment of gratuities; but we have not seen that money.
‘‘Are they waiting for us to die before they begin payment?
“We have worked for 35 years. We deserve this money. The state government should give us this money because it is our right and not a privilege,’’ he said.
Mrs Theresa Okoi, who retired in 2012, said she had withdrawn her children from tertiary institutions.
She said she had directed them to go and learn some trades/skills because she could no longer pay their fees.
“It is unfortunate that after working for 35 years, we have to beg for our monies to be paid. I have withdrawn my children from the higher institutions because I was no longer capable of paying their fees’’, she said.
Mr Asuquo Ekpenyong, the state Commissioner for Finance, told our reporter in a telephone interview that the state government was looking into the matter, with a view to settling the retirees.
“We are processing the payment of their outstanding gratuities. We are looking at the possibilities of settling them accordingly.
“We all understand the current economic situation in the country; this is not an issue that is peculiar to Cross River alone.
‘‘We are looking at ways at settling them (pensioners),’’ he said.