Emotions ran high on Thursday when security agents locked out protesting pensioners at the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Looking dejected, the pensioners under the aegis of the Local Government Pensioners Association, stormed the state secretariat complex as early as 8am to protest the alleged refusal of Governor Dapo Abiodun administration to pay their gratuities.
Armed with placards with various inscriptions, the pensioners, however, met a brick wall at the second gate of the complex leading to the governor’s office, as security agents hurriedly locked the gate against them.
The state Chairman of the LGPA, Sikiru Ayilara, and some officials were able to beat the security agents and gained entrance into the complex.
Ayilara attempted to force the gate open, while raining abuses on government officials, but the security agents comprising the police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and private security guards overpowered him.
The development left workers stranded, while government activities were paralysed momentarily.
The pensioners had resolved to protest at the end of the three-day fasting they declared over the backlog of unpaid gratuities.
The pensioners were armed with mats and insisted that they would not leave the governor’s office until their demands were met.
But the governor had travelled to Lagos before the arrival of the pensioners.
Addressing journalists, Ayilara said, “We wanted to stage a peaceful protest and we introduced ourselves to the security agents; we didn’t have cutlasses and we didn’t have ordinary stick in our hands; we just wanted to make the people to know the treatment being meted to us as pensioners in this state.
“The suffering we are experiencing from this and the previous administration is too much.”
Ayilara lamented that members of the association were hurt by the alleged nonchalant attitude of the governor to their grievances, which included non-payment of gratuities, lateness, non-increment in monthly pensions and discrimination against them by the government, among others.
He accused Abiodun of “playing dangerously with the lives of the members” by refusing to pay their gratuities on time.
The association insisted that the quarterly payment of N500m by Abiodun, which by calculation would take 34 years to clear all the gratuities, was unacceptable.
The protesters called for the review of the policy by voting N1bn monthly for the settlement of gratuities.
But addressing the pensioners, the Secretary to the State Government, Tokunbo Talabi, appealed to them to be patient with the government, adding that it would soon address their demands.
Talabi said, “We want you to be patient with us; you will recall that when we started paying what we agreed to pay, we started paying from 2011 to 2014; we didn’t pay from 2019, the year we came in, and we all know what the country is saying now when it comes to money; we are promising you that with time, we will do more concerning what we agreed to be paying.
“We just have to be realistic with ourselves; the money cannot be paid at once or the way you want it, but if you are patient, it can be sorted out; we just have to be patient, because we are just two years in government and we have to touch some sectors of the economy like road infrastructure, so that we can get money to do things.”