Angered by the non-payment of gratuities, non-harmonization of pensions among other welfare issues, thousands of pensioners in their numbers took to the main streets of Benin to protest against the state government.
The action of the senior citizens who blocked all adjoining roads at the city centre disrupted vehicular and human vehicular movement around Ring Road.
An unidentified pensioner collapsed at the protest ground and was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital for medical attention.
The protest which was largely peaceful resulted in a traffic hold up on Sapele road, Sakponba, Ekehuan, Uselu-Ugbowo axis and Airport road linking the city centre, and hindered the easy flow of movements by commuters plying the roads to their respective destinations.
Dressed in black attires, the retirees chanted songs like “we shall overcome”, and carried placards with inscriptions such as “pensioners need gratuity to take care of our health and our family, pay our gratuity and harmonize our monthly pension,” and asked the government to accede to their demands.
The senior citizens under the umbrella of the Association of Retired Civil Servants Welfare of Nigeria (ARCSWON) in Edo State lamented that their allowances are far depleted by inflation and the expensive cost of daily living.
The spokesperson, Mr Yusuf Bako railed against the illegal deduction from their monthly pensions and urged the government to urgently effect harmonization owing to the diminishing purchasing power of naira.
Bako, a former chairman of the association of senior civil servants in Edo State, threatened that the next protest will be a mother of all protest if the government fails to grant their request.
He added: “The number one issue on the ground is gratuity. Since 2012, state government retirees have not received their gratuities while that of local government is since 2008. We also have issues with the harmonization of our pensions; as of today, the teacher that taught me geography receives N4,000 a month.
“In addition to these issues, the government joined hands with the union to collect from the small pension we receive and shared it with the union. We have rejected that, and that is why we are out today to tell them we will not die.”
A representative of the Edo State Pension Bureau, Mr Osaro Washington, however, assured them of the government’s determination to sort the issues raised by the aggrieved senior citizens.
He added: “We have asked them to put on hold the one per cent deduction until further notice. We are not owing any pensioner. What they are saying is their gratuity.”
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