Adjourning roads to the Benin city centre which is also known as Ring Road have been taken over by heavy traffic as pensioners took over the city centre protesting the non-payment of their gratuities since they retired from active service.
Dressed in all-black attire, the senior citizens said the current administration did not continue the payment of their gratuities from 2012 when the last administration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole stopped. The Oshiomhole government started the payment of gratuities from 1998 till 2012 at the time he left office in 2016.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Amadin Okoro said “We are aggrieved; a lot of us are dying. A lot of us are not well, many of them are supposed to go for operations, no money. Besides gratuity, local government retirees are owed arrears and their gratuities since 2008. But for the state, it has not been paid since 2012 till date.
“Our appeal to the governor is that he should pay us so that we can enjoy the fruits of our labour, which we suffered for 35 years. In fairness, we receive our pensions monthly but the crux of the matter is our gratuity.”
Another protester, Esther Ehigie said she retired in 2012 and that they were screened and invited to a meeting in 2017 where the authority for payment which is called yellow paper was collected from them but their money was not paid.
Reacting to the development, the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare said the government of Governor Godwin Obaseki has been paying the gratuities of all those who have retired since he became governor and that provision has already been made to clear the backlog.
He said: “We have gone very far to tackle the backlog, we made promises to the pensioners that they we will pay their arrears which we have done, we made promise that they will get their pensions as at when due, that we have done, the third leg of that is to clear the gratuity arrears, which is a huge sum of money, we have a plan in place which is coming to fruition, in the 2023 budget, we made provision to clear some of these gratuities and those pensioners have been put in batches so that they can be paid and very soon this will be affected. We implore our pensioners to exercise more patience and restraint while the issues are being sorted out.”