Ortom meets protesting pensioners, begs for forgiveness
Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, on Friday met with protesting pensioners in the state, promising to release funds to complete the payment of their pensions.
Ortom who met with the pensioners at the gate to the Government House begged for forgiveness and said it was sad this was happening during his administration.
The pensioners had since Wednesday continued to protest the non-payment of their gratuities and allowances spanning 25 months.
Despite a series of appeal by government officials to stop the protest and return to their homes, the pensioners had two nights at the gate to Government House.
While addressing the pensioners, Ortom explained that he was a child of circumstance as he inherited N17billion on assumption of office.
He said, “When I came in 2015, I inherited over N17 billion in gratuity and pension of N34b all at the state level.
“But we have been able to reduce this amount by paying N18.6bn and I have N11bn outstanding.
“We are not relenting and that is the reason why we have continued to work towards solving the problems.
“In last year’s budget, we proposed to raise N40b through bond and we had also set up a committee on the introduction of PENCOM.
“I am ashamed to stand before you, for I know the pains some of you are passing through, many of you need to buy drugs every month.
“There is no justification for not paying you, that is why I am appealing to you to forgive me, this will not repeat itself,” Orton said.
However, the State Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Mr Joseph Kume, brought a twist to the protest.
According to Kume, the leaders of the protesting pensioners were suspended after they lost at the individual court before they later formed their own group called “Concerned Pensioners”.
When asked of the status of people who had been protesting since three days ago, Kume said, ” Those deserters went and mobilized pensioners to do their bidding.
On whether the government actually owed pensioners in the State, Kume said that pensioners in the State and local government were owed 20 and 19 months pension allowance respectively.
Meanwhile, one of the protesting pensioners, David Atsaan, was said to have died on Thursday.
The leader of the protesting pensioners under the auspices of Concerned Pensioners, Peter Kyado, told Journalists in Makurdi yesterday that the deceased who joined in the protest on Wednesday died on Thursdays.
“The man who worked and retired at the Accountant General’s office 15 years ago joined the protest on Wednesday but suddenly had a cold and was rushed to a hospital where he died yesterday, (Thursday).