By Mukwuzi Joseph
Pensioners in their hundreds on Monday complicated security matters in Cross River State as they blocked the only entry point into the state capital, Calabar, over alleged non-payment of pension to them for the past seven months.
As early as 8 am, the pensioners, mostly old people from all the 18 local government areas of the state, massed at the Auditor General’s office for Local Government located along Murtala Mohammed Highway which is the only road leading in and out of the state capital.
The pensioners, who were more than one thousand in number, had gone to the Auditor General’s office hoping to undergoing a verification exercise, but they did not meet the Auditor General for Local Government, Mrs. Franca Inok who had earlier invited them for the verification exercise.
Angered by the action of Mrs. Inok, the pensioners, who said they have been paying transport to Calabar several times without verification, carried plastic chairs from the various offices within the premises and sat right on the road, forcing vehicles to make a detour to adjourning streets.
One of the leaders of the protesters, Mrs. Christiana Bassey, said: “We are being owed seven months pension arrears. We have been coming from various local government areas for screening but the Auditor General has been playing politics. She said we are a ghost worker that is why we are in our numbers to physically present ourselves.
“In the course of coming from our various local government areas to Calabar, some people had accidents and they died while some have been incapacitated. We have suffered various deprivations and neglect and we are saying that we have served the state with the strength of our youths and we deserve better treatment instead of calling us ghost workers. This is unfair to us,” the 70-year-old Mrs. Bassey said.
It took the intervention of the military and the Police as well as the Permanent Secretary, Office of the State Security Adviser, Dr. Alfred Mboto, to persuade the old people to finally vacate the highway.