Civil service retirees in Imo State say the Department of State Security officers intimidated them by asking them to stop protesting their unpaid pension by the state government.
“The DSS invited us to stop the rally we hold every Tuesday,” said Maurice Amaechi, secretary of Pension Intervention Committee. “They said we are disturbing the peaceful nature of the state.”
The pensioners decided to establish the committee as a means to rally for their pension.
After thugs attacked the pensioners during their protest earlier in August, the DSS invited Amaechi and Collins Ohaneze who is the chairman of the committee.
Amaechi told Sahara Reporters that the DSS held them for four hours and accused them of disturbing the peace in the state.
“They want us to stop protesting on the road, and they want us to stop begging for alms for pensioners who are bedridden and cannot pay their medical bills,” Amaechi said.
Amaechi says Governor Hope Uzodinma is using the DSS to bully and deny them the freedom to protest against the deprivation by the state.
“We had written to them explaining the reason for our protest. They seemed to pity us, but they suddenly changed their mind. We told them we could not stop protesting. We have freedom of association as long as we are not violence, but they seem to have compromised with the governor.”
Amaechi said since Uzodinma took over as the governor of the state in January, 49 pensioners had died from ill-health. He said the two pensioners who passed away last week accumulated debt in hospital.
He said the governor promised to start paying the pension from last June but had only made irregular payments since then.
“The governor may pay some groups of people for two months,” Amaechi said. “He would then pay another group one month, while some have never received payment.”
He estimated that only about 40 per cent of the pensions had been paid. He urged the governor to quit handling the payment himself and hand it over to the office of the accountant general in the state.
Amaechi said the state has about 24,962 verified pensioners, adding and many of them were owed about five years arrears by the previous administration of Rochas Okorocha.
He said Emeka Ihedioha, the governor who was sacked by the Supreme Court, paid all pensioners without missing a month, once a verification process was completed.
The Imo State government had, in a statement, alleged that the protests were sponsored by persons who were not retired, civil servants.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, Declan Emelumba, said the chairman and secretary of the pensioners’ association were mercenaries being used to cause disharmony in the country.
Emelumba said the protesters were supporters of Ihedioha who wanted to destabilize the current administration.
Iquo Arthur-Worrey, the director of DSS in Imo State, denied any intimidation of the protesting pensioners by the security agency.
“I don’t know where you got that kind of information from,” Arthur-Worrey told SaharaReporters. “They should not drag the DSS in their issues, please.”
Apart from the questioning by the DSS, the pensioners have been attacked twice by thugs suspected to have been hired by the state government in August.
The most recent incident, which occurred on August 18, was allegedly masterminded by Chinasa Nwaneri, the Special Assistant on Special Duties to Governor Uzodinma.