Police in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State yesterday arrested and detained three children of dead primary school teachers protesting the non-payment of gratuities and pensions of their parents.
3 others were injured as the security men manning the Government House gate, in Uyo disperse the protesters.
Among those still detained by the Police at the time of filing this report include the leaders of the group; Kenneth Enobong, Benjamin Benson and Utibe Akpan.
Tear gas, were freely used to scare away the protesters but later, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), D.R. Abibo, ordered the use of Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), to drive the protesters away from the Government House gate.
“I told them to leave the road and stand by the side so they can listen to me, but they disobeyed me as the Commissioner of Police. Who are they, that they can’t listen or obey a simple instruction…?”, Abibo, who represents the Police at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry of the collapsed Church, fumed.
The protesters under the aegis of Next-of Kin-of Late Primary School Teachers (NKLPST), Akwa Ibom State, said they were forced into the peaceful agitation due to government insensitivity to their plights.
Addressing newsmen, the spokesman of the group, Pastor Aniekan Thompson, explained that they had to resort to protest when all negotiations with government failed to yield answers.
According to him, the affected teachers who had served the State government in various capacities as primary teachers since 1999, lived and lost their lives, while waiting for their entitlements that never came, till date.
He explained that several appeals had been made to the government and other officials including the Head of Service (HoS), Mrs. Ekerebong Akpan, to no avail.
“After numerous protests, a committee on pensions headed by the Leader of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Sir Udo Kirian Akpan, invited us for a meeting and we met on August 29 and September 19, 2016 and agreed on the following:
“That since government cannot pay all the backlog of entitlements at once, that they will start paying in batches from the September allocation, that we should not go on protest again, that it is embarrassing to government” .
Another meeting was also held by the Head of Service, but government failed to honour its words, adding that the refusal of government to settle the issues, has led to the death of so many of their members and the educational pursuit of their children.
Worried by the lingering issues of non payment of workers entitlements in the State, the Chairman of the State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Etim Ukpong, said he had advised Governor Udom Emmanuel, to utilize the N14.5 billion Paris Club debt refunds to the State to settle such cases.
But the Governor had two weeks ago taken the matter before the House of Assembly, asking the lawmakers to include the Paris Club cash into the already proposed budget of N365.201 billion.
A senior government official who seek anonymity told LEADERSHIP that all issues relating to payment of pension and gratuity of retired staffs are being looked into and does not call violent demonstration.
There are procedures to follow in government business and such issues does not call for any protest but it does appeared that those protesting are agents of the opposition party.
”Nobody say that there shouldn’t be protest but due process has to be followed and permission granted by security agency a situation whereby hoodlums hiding under any guise blocking route to the government house is definitely not good enough.
Governor Udom Emmanuel administration is doing all things within its powers to ensure that backlog of pensions and gratuity of retired workers are settled promptly but there are cases where verification of some of the retirees are difficult to access” he stated.
While urging the protesters to always channel their grievances through appropriate government departments he said that a situation where people would just block the entrance of the government house to protest as not too good.