Pensioners in Abia State on Thursday took their worsening plight to the streets as they blocked the ever-busy Bende Road in Umuahia, the state capital.
The senior citizens said that they were protesting the backlog of pension arrears owed them by the state government.
The angry and hungry-looking retirees hung placards and used wooden benches to block one lane of the road and prevented vehicles from passing as they sat on the benches chanting anti-government slogans.
Some of them poured libations and made incantations against the state government while others prayed loudly to God against the government.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: “We are dying of hunger; Ikpeazu pay us our pension”, and “Stop punishing pensioners”.
It took the intervention of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) Umuahia Central Police Station, Mr. Ezekiel Onyeke and the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ogbonaya Nta, to persuade the senior citizens to leave the highway.
Before the arrival of the police, the obstruction by the pensioners had caused a serious gridlock in some major roads in the metropolis.
The Umuahia Branch Chairman of the National Union of Pensioners (NUP), Deacon Daniel Amaugo, accused the state government of insensitivity to the plights of his members.
He lamented their ordeal, particularly in the face of the current economic realities in the country, saying that life had become unbearable for pensioners in the state.
Amaugo said: “This is what I and the pensioners are saying. If he wants to shoot me, let him go ahead and kill me. The pensioners are dying daily because of lack of money.
“As I am here now the government owes me 12 months’ pension. Should it be so? These are people who have patients in the hospital but cannot secure their release.
“We served this state for more than 35 years and now we cannot eat the fruits of our labour”.
Amaugo also said some pensioners could no longer pay their rents following the backlog of their arrears and called on the state government to “have mercy on them.”
“We are hungry and dying on a daily basis and those of us who are tenants can no longer pay our rents because we are not paid. Our demand now is that he (Governor Okezie Ikpeazu) should pay us all pension arrears”, he said.
He said the union had earlier written a letter to the state government on their plights but their pleas fell on deaf ears.