By Famous Oshiomegie
At last, the weekly dance by Edo State’s senior citizens at Kings Square in Benin City, over pension arrears owed the retirees since the year 2000, is over.
For months, journalists feasted on the protests by retired civil servants at Kings Square, Benin City, over a problem actually caused by the Edo Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Edo PDP’s sins are many and are impossible to ignore. The consequences of the degree of banditry the party demonstrated, stretch to today and the future. To illustrate, the Edo PDP set the stage for the accumulated pension arrears of over N10billion after the forced retirement policy it implemented in the year 2000 which led to the early retirement of many civil servants, many of whom still had between five to seven years in service.
The sudden implementation of the forced retirement policy sent some civil servants to their early graves while some developed high blood pressure and other health issues. The obnoxious policy truncated the destinies of most of the workers, who had planned to use the years left of their service to set up businesses as they transit from a work life to retirement.
Martin Ekpe, the former General Manager of Edo Broadcasting Service and Mr Anthony Ekhator died not long after their sudden and shocking retirement.
Prior to their forceful sack, a fire incident on the eight (8) floor of the State Secretariat Building had sacked staff from the floor. The floor became home to most of the retired civil servants who had lost their rented apartments due to their inability to pay their rents.
Some took refuge inside the unserviceable vehicles parked within the secretariat building. Such was the fate of most of the Edo men and women who had invested their productive years in the growth of the state.
The few that were lucky to be alive had to contend with how to raise money to feed their families and take care of their failing health. The education of their children suffered as their children were forced to abandon their educational pursuit. Most of their children opted to trek to Spain and Italy by road and the popular document that was found in every household in Edo State then, was what they called Route Map.
Route Map is a book with directions from Benin to Morocco, through Libya. The mass exodus of Edo youths hit its peak in the period following the PDP’s sack policy.
To turn around after forcefully retiring Edo civil servants who were not due for retirement, and begin to insult Governor Obaseki for the grave sin committed by the same Edo PDP, amplifies the cold-hearted nature of the bandits that currently constitute the party. They are rogues, deceitful and do not care who lives or dies.
What is heart-breaking is the fact that the Edo PDP came up with the policy to disengage civil servants in order to increase the booty which they shared. They looked at the monthly wage bill of civil servants which in their estimation was too high, as what was left to be shared by the rogues in the party was not enough. So they forcefully disengaged civil servants to free-up more funds to service their escapades.
Edo PDP keeps hoping that people will forget their atrocities and have embarked on a show of shame called a tour.
The disreputable and shameful tour is a slap in the faces of Edo people.
No dancing, falsehood or blackmail can reverse the ill fortunes of Edo PDP because they stole from the elderly, forced youths to embark on life-threatening trips through the harsh Sahara Desert and Mediterranean, the PDP’s incompetence made a mess of governance and displaced hope for the millions of Edo people.
Thankfully, the over N10 billion pension arrears that Governor Obaseki inherited currently stand at N3.9billion, with over N6billion already defrayed.
One of the strategies adopted by Governor Obaseki is the dedication of N100million for the monthly payment of pension arrears.
The governor has expressed his deep respect for the state’s senior citizens by ensuring that their monthly pension entitlements are paid as and when due and has assured that what is left of the arrears will be soon be cleared as the phased payment progresses.
Today Edo senior citizens are at home enjoying for the first time in 18 years, life in retirement as they receive their credit alerts notifying them of their pension payments every month.
The campaign of calumny orchestrated by the Edo PDP to unsettle Governor Obaseki whose rising profile is a threat to the future fortunes of the Edo PDP, has failed to sway Edo people. The people’s rejection of the party at the polls which was validated by the nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court, still stands.
It is still a wonder to many states in Nigeria, how Governor Obaseki has successfully managed the pension issue, the regular payment of serving civil servants, the construction of several roads across the three Senatorial districts and the gradual transformation of the state to an industrialised state at a time some states with higher oil revenue receipts could not even pay workers’ salaries.
Oshiomegie writes from Auchi