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Hoodlums attack Imo retirees during protest against unpaid pensions

Charles Ogugbuaja and Collins Osuji, Owerri

Aug. 05, 2020

No fewer than 50 hoodlums, yesterday, flogged and beat up retirees who were protesting against non-payment of their six months outstanding pensions in Owerri, with a view to stopping their demonstration.
The incident, which occurred near Government House, Owerri, generated tension and elicited criticisms from indigenes of the state. The Guardian learnt that the youths resorted to flogging and beating up the retirees after efforts to disperse them by pouring on them dirty water from the gutter failed.
Eyewitnesses said the thugs also attempted to snatch their bags and other personal belongings in the process, but having resolved to continue the protest, some of them sustained of injuries and were taken to the hospital.
However, intervention of the Assistant Commissioner of Police, A. J. Moses and a team of anti-cult policemen prevented the incident from degenerating and resulting in loss of lives.
Speaking to newsmen, one of the pensioners, Dr. Ebenezer Ibekwe, accused the state government of hiring the thugs to disrupt their protest saying, “How can you owe old men and declare them ghost pensioners and still don’t want them to demand their entitlements?
“The thugs were flogging us because we said we are not ghost pensioners as they have tagged us. Also at the Freedom Square, some of them poured us dirty water to stop us from protesting.”
When contacted, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Hope Uzodimma on Print Media, Modestus Nwamkpa, denied the allegation that government sent thugs to flog pensioners. About a week ago, no fewer than four retirees had slumped during a protest near Government House, but they were revived.
Secretary of the Pensions Intervention Committee (PIC), Maurice Amaechi, lamented that security operatives prevented them from protesting, which he said, was their legitimate right. He said some of them were being paid haphazardly, stressing that while some were paid in March and April, some retirees were yet to receive payments, adding that another set received either one or two months, leaving out those who were paid in March and April.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, who earlier reacted to the development, accused opposition elements of sponsoring the pensioners’ several protests in the state. He said the lapses and delay in the payment were caused by discrepancies in the payroll system, which he said, had been rectified with leaders of the pensioners and labour unions, urging them to be patient, as government would do everything possible to pay them.
Also, scores of women, who sell fruits at the Relief Market on Egbu Road, Owerri, have protested against the directive to relocate them to another area.
Their spokesman, Charity Samuel, said they were relocated to the area during former Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration, adding that they were asked to pay N50, 000 each.
They wondered why the Owerri Municipal Council and the Ministry of Commerce directed them to quit in order to erect shops that would allegedly be sold for between N250, 000 and N300, 000.
Reacting to the development, Chairman, Interim Transition Committee of the council, Ambrose Nkwodinma, said the matter had been resolved among all the parties involved.
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