The forum of next of kin/widows to late retired primary School teachers in Akwa Ibom State, on Friday, staged a peaceful protest over the delay in the payment of their entitlements, which according to them amounted to over N5.2billion.
The protesters comprising mainly widows and children of deceased retired primary school teachers said the gratuities and the 7.5% contributory pensions of their deceased fathers/husbands which have been bequeathed onto them by virtue of being the next of kin, has remained unpaid over five years of getting clearance and undergoing various screenings.
The protesters displayed various placards with inscriptions such as: “empty promises are too much, pay entitlements of widows/next of kin of late primary school teachers, don’t take from widows etc.”
Addressing the Press, the Vice Chairman of the group, Godwin Usoh alleged that since the inception of the current administration, no primary school teacher in the State, both the living and the dead had been paid gratuity despite their efforts.
Usoh recalled that in September 2020, some government officials had approached them and pleaded with them not to embark on protest, that their entitlements would be paid in 3weeks, but government failed to keep to that promise till date.
According to him, “We are here today on a peaceful protest to the government house on the non payment of gratuity of our late parents and we have been on this struggle since 2015.
“We have been pleading that government should be sympathetic to the feelings of widows and orphans.
“I remember when the state government received the first tranche of the Paris Club Fund, we were told that part of that money would be used to settle next of kin, but that was not done, this indicates that government is not sincere.
“Sometime in 2016, some of us were even arrested here while on a peaceful protest. We were charged to court and after one year we were acquitted and released. But we are determined to continue this struggle until government listened to us. Today, we will sleep and dine with government here. If death comes, we will die here honourably in front of this government house gate.”
Also speaking, the Secretary, Mr. Benjamin Benson lamented that despite the intervention of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Akwa Ibom State Council, the current administration refused to address their demand.
His words, “Since 2015 when governor Udom Emmanuel became the governor of Akwa Ibom State no retired primary School teacher living or dead has been paid gratuity. What the living retirees receive is monthly pension.
“We were screened in 2018 after several other screenings. We had expected that after the 2018 screening the money would have been paid but that didn’t happen”
Similarly, Mr. Bassey Okon, state Chairman of Action Alliance Party Akwa Ibom State said it was painful that his mother who retired as a Primary School teacher since 2007, died in 2009, without receiving her gratuity.
He stressed, “It is a painful thing for someone to work for government for 35years without receiving his or her gratuity while alive. And we have done screening concerning this next of kin matter for about 26 times, yet nothing has been done. It is sad.”