How Imo pensioners were locked up for five hours at Freedom Square

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No fewer than 25 Imo pensioners were yesterday barricaded in, and locked up for more than five hours at the Freedom Square venue of their weekly meetings by alleged government agents.

This is also as the Special Adviser on Special Duties, Mr. Chinasa Nwaneri allegedly seized the mobile device of a reporter from Darling FM radio station, Mr. Kingsley Onwuka, for taking pictures of locked up pensioners. 

The pensioners most of who have arrears of pensions in excess of 30 months, yet unpaid, have been using the Freedom Square for their regular meetings because of it significance, backed by the executive order of of former Governor Rochas Okorocha who inaugurated the square and described it as a place where any person from anywhere can express his grievance against anybody or government howsoever and not be held liable or reprimanded. 

The Chairman of the Pension Intervention Committee, Comrade Iyke Ohaneje confirmed to our correspondent that he was among the pensioners locked up at the Freedom Square for more than five hours. 

“The Freedom Square has been the regular meeting place for Imo pensioners because of what it stands for; where we discuss our plight and way forward to solving our problems. We had barely gathered to hold our meeting, before we noticed that some thugs suspected to be government agents came and locked us in even before all other pensioners could arrive for the meeting. 

“The government agents made it clear that they didn’t want us to hold our meetings again and we have always known that the Freedom Square is a public place, significant and relevant to our struggle and as such have been using it to press home our grievances. We didn’t know they could take it to such desperate level.”

Ohaneje noted that beyond the indebtedness of pensioners by the state, pensioners were worried by the continued payment of pensions from the Government House instead of the Accountant General’s Office. 

” It violates the provisions of the law. The offices of the Accountant General and the Auditor General are the two key offices mandated to administer the payment of pensions. But today we have mere charlatans paying pensions in the Government House and that promotes corruption, fraud and unprofessionalism. 

“The Governor cannot assume the office of the Accountant General, Auditor-General and pay clerk paying whoever they like instead of allowing the time-tested civil service mechanism to run its full course”. 

The Chairman regretted that it was members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers(NURTW), some of who addressed them, that were mobilized eventually to disperse them and scuttle their meeting for the day apparently because the government erroneously suspected that they wanted to embark on another protest.

Reacting, the Commissioner for Information, Mbadiwe Emelumba said it was untrue that the Freedom Square was locked by agents of government.

He added that the incident was the regular feature of the dispute among the pensioners. He suggested that it was possible the Square was locked up following the internal contention within the pensioners’ Union.

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