Retirees in Osun State on Thursday trooped out in large numbers on the streets of Osogbo, the state capital, over the failure of the state government to pay their pensions and other retirement benefits.
The protesting senior citizens said the Rauf Aregbesola-led government refused to pay their entitlements from the second tranche of the Paris Club refund funds.
But the state government has described the protest as politically motivated in view of the coming bye-election for the Osun West senatorial seat next week.
The pensioners however, alleged that the state government was not willing to pay salaries with the second tranche of the Paris club funds which is about N12.7 billion.
The pensioners marched from Ayetoro with placards inscribed with anti-government statements and through Old Garage, terminating the protest at the popular Orita-Olaiya Junction.
The march caused traffic snarl in the city despite the presence of security personnel who were on ground to prevent the protest from been hijacked.
Thursday’s protest is the third by Osun pensioners this year, to highlight government’s seeming insensitivity to their plight, as they are currently being owed 12 months pension arrears and gratuities.
According to the pensioners, none of the retirees who retired from the state civil service since 2008 has been paid gratuity.
Addressing the protesters, the chairman forum of 2011/2012 retirees, Ilesanmi Omoniyi, accused the state governor of diverting money meant for the payment of pensions and gratuities.
He said what was more annoying to the pensioners, was that the state government had at three different times received intervention from the federal government to pay the workers but refused to.
Similarly, a former Head of Service in the state, Segun Akinwusi, told the retirees to use their votes to change a government that had made life unbearable for them.
A statement by the government, signed by its spokesperson, Semiu Okanlawon, stated that the Osun pensioners were not included in the first tranche of the bailout loans in the first place, but that through the ‘magnanimity’ of the governor, pensioners were included and N34.9 billion was released.
“If that was the situation and the pensioners are aware of this, what then do they need this agitation for if there is no other ulterior motive behind the protest,” the statement said.
“The governor has also severally explained this including the last Ogbeni Till Day Break where all state officers concerned with state finances came out to explain how bailout was spent.
“Any other actions, allegations and manipulations after these moves by the government would amount to sheer blackmail.”
The government further noted that as responsible elderly men and women who had given their best to their state in their agile days, the pensioners should be circumspect in staging protests especially at times when such actions are capable of being interpreted to mean political orchestrations from those who are desperate to blackmail the Aregbesola administration for their selfish political gains.
“They should not be hoodwinked by the antics of those who want to play on their minds and emotions to make them appear like tools in the hands of political manipulators,” Mr. Okanlawon added.