No fewer than 50 pensioners from Cross River State on Wednesday stormed the Government House in Calabar, demanding to see Governor Ben Ayade over the death of six of their colleagues, who they alleged died within one week.
The pensioners were, however, barricaded by security personnel at the gate following the governor’s absence from office.
Led by a former staff of the Cross River State Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Paul Idagu, the pensioners arrived the governor’s office at about 11.45am and insisted that the governor or his deputy, Prof. Ivara Esu, should come out to speak with them, but none of them came out to address the protesting retirees.
The pensioners carried placards with inscriptionssuch as, ‘We have suffered enough’, ‘Pay us our gratuity from 2014’, ‘Paris Club refunds are rare gift that must be used for the purpose meant for’, ‘Governor Ayade: Retirees in Cross River are entitled to longevity’, ‘Let us not die out of frustration’, among others.
Idagu had, while addressing journalists said, “We are here to let the governor know that we have buried about six of our fellow retirees in the last one week because government has not paid us our gratuities since 2014.
“Government must not wait until we all die before they pay us.”
He listed those who have been buried in the last one week without collecting their gratuities as Augustine Etta, Sylvia Bocco, Abang Naji; Sylvester Ibok and Vincent Eja.
In the case of Eja, he said, “We wish to inform you of one of us who just died and was buried last week, Mr. Vincent Eja, who worked for Cross River State Government for 35 years and retired as a director in government printing press in 2014.
“Eja was caught by a strange disease called auto bacteria that rendered his two hands useless.
“He was referred to National Hospital, Abuja, for treatment. He needed N500,000 only for the treatment; unfortunately, for two years, he roamed the corridors of governor’s and Accountant-General’s offices seeking help, even when his gratuity was due him.
“He died and was buried last week.”
Idagu appealed to the governor to maintain the chain and plan of payment of gratuity to 2014 and 2015 retirees and beyond.
“This appeal has become very necessary as majority of retirees in the state fall within this range and group. Many have died without this gratuity; many may still have to die without it if something is not done about it urgently. Please, Your Excellency, save our souls,” he said.