A coalition of widows/next of kin of retired primary school teachers in Akwa Ibom State on Monday, May 17, defied heavy downpour and took to the streets over non-payment of their entitlements totaling over N5billion.
The protesters, who converged close to Government House gate around 9:30 a.m. and were there till about 6:15 p.m. vowed not to leave the gate until their demands were met.
They also came with drums and mats, an indication that they were not in a hurry to leave the place even as police officers were around the area to ensure maintenance of law and order.
Speaking with journalists under the rains, the Secretary of the Coalition, Mr. Benjamin Benson, said the state government was not sincere enough in keeping its promises even though it has commenced payment to some widows, adding that out of the total of 2000 widows screened and verified less than 100 have been paid.
He noted that government has not succeeded in paying all the 1990 and 2000 category.
“We are here today because you know that this government is not sincere enough to keep it promises over the years. All the verification exercises that they have carried out and up till today only few people have been paid.
“The total number of people verified and screened so far is close to 2000 but they have paid less than 100 and we know if they are starting like this, it may take the life of this administration. The category of people they have paid so far is between 1990 and 2000 and not everyone in that category has been paid. So, today we decided to come and press further our demands.”
Reacting to Governor Udom Emmanuel’s statement that payment of entitlements of retired primary school teachers is not the responsibility of the state government, Benson asked what happened to the deductions they have been making from local government allocations over the years?
“Over time this government has told us that they are deducting money from the local government allocations for this purpose, how much have they deducted so far?. Why are they bringing out less than 1% after the verification exercise?
“In all, what the governor said was so provocative because at a point he tried to make fun out of it. He said he is also a next of kin and he should be leading the protest. This is different from what he told us when he was campaigning for the governorship position in 2015”
“This government said payment will be in batches, we expect the government to commit some money but what it has done so far, we cannot even call that first batch because if you have about 2000 people and you are paying less than 100 and you want us to think that that is the first batch?”
Also speaking a former leader of the Coalition, Mr Idongesit Akpan described the situation as tensed, adding that the state government has been promising retired teachers but failing to fulfil its promises.
“The situation is tensed up because all that government has been promising retired teachers has not been fulfilled. If government has promised let the government fulfill its promise,” he said.