Femi Makinde, Osogbo
Pensioners in Osun State on Friday stormed the state secretariat and locked out workers in continuation of their protest to press home the demand for payment of their pension arrears and gratuities.
The pensioners started the fresh round of protest on Thursday and continued early Friday morning before workers could arrive for work.
The protesters locked the main gate as well as the second gate thereby preventing workers from going inside. Workers were seen loitering under the trees at the entrance and other places close to the secretariat.
While chanting war songs, some of the pensioners blocked the gates, while others lined up with placards beside the main road calling Governor Rauf Aregbsola unprintable names.
Armed policemen, operatives of the Department of State Services and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were deployed to ensure that the protest was not hijacked. Our correspondent observed that the security agents behaved in a civil manner while discharging their duties at the scene of the protest.
One of the leaders of the pensioners, Mr. Yemi Lawal, told journalists that henceforth they would not allow any staff to go inside the secretariat until their entitlements were fully paid.
He said the state government owed them 12 months’ pension and that the gratuities of those who retired between 2008 and 2012 had not been paid.
Lawal accused the governor of planning to divert the second tranche of N12.7bn Paris Club loan refund. He claimed that the governor diverted the bailout given to Osun State by the Federal Government adding that a substantial part of the first tranche of the Paris Club loan refund was also diverted while the governor was also, allegedly, planning to divert the second tranche of the fund.
He said, “We are going to do everything possible to make sure that this money is not diverted by Governor Aregbesola like he diverted the previous funds. There was a publication that the governor does not owe us, we urge members of the public to discountenance the information. It is a lie.
“I admonish him to look for means to pay us and if he refuses, we will continue till the 2018 election. The struggle will never die and I also urge him not to push us too far whereby our action in the state will result to anarchy.
“We are appealing to the Federal Government, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Is our law so ineffective that there is no room for checks and balances to prevent our governors from doing as they like?”
The Secretary of the Forum of 2010/2011 Pensioners, Mr. Sola Olojede, also accused the governor of sponsoring few pensioners to say the state did not owe any pensioner. He alleged that the governor was paying this set of pensioners to rubbish the claims of the authentic pensioners, who were suffering hardship as a result of non-payment of their gratuities and pensions.
Efforts to get the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Adelaide Baderinwa, to comment on the allegations were not successful as calls placed to his telephone indicated that it had been switched off.
Meanwhile, he had in an earlier interview with our correspondent debunked the allegation of diversion. He said the state had not been paid the second tranche of the Paris Club loan refund, saying workers and pensioners would be promptly paid when the state received the fund. He also alleged that politicians were using the issue to attack the government.
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Source: The Punch