A retired headmaster in Osun State has hanged himself because he could not fend for his family – due to non-payment of his gratuity.
It was gathered that the deceased, Lukman Odewole, wife and a child fell ill at the same time but he had no money to take them to the hospital for treatment.
Following Odewole’s death, which occurred in Ejigbo Local Government Area of the state, pensioners in the state hit the streets on Wednesday, Nov. 22, to protest non-payment of their pensions for 13 and-a-half months.
The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions slamming the Rauf Aregbesola-led administration, marched to the popular Olaiya Junction where they addressed journalists.
The pensioners, under the platform of 2011/2012 Forum of Retired Public Servants in Osun State, said the protest was fueled by the death rate among their members, especially the recent one being the retired headmaster.
One of the leaders of pensioners group, Mr. Yemi Lawal, said Odewole committed suicide because of financial hardship.
He added that over 2,500 pensioners have died since 2013 because of nonpayment of their gratuities and pensions.
Lawal called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene, accusing the state government of diverting the intervention funds released by the Federal Government.
“We are appealing to President Buhari to save us from Aregbesola. We are being owed pension arrears of 13 and a half months and gratuities.
“Some of our members are sick, but there is no money for treatment. We have lost over 2,500 members since 2013 and one of our members in Ejigbo committed suicide because of financial hardship.
“We want the Federal Government to conduct workers and pensioners’ audit to know the exact number of pensioners and workers.
“We also plead with the President not to pay further intervention fund meant for salary and pension to Osun State Government because the money will be diverted just as the previous funds were diverted.”
The Forum’s Secretary, Mr. Sola Olojede also said that the retired headmaster killed himself on September 29, 2017, at Masifa in Ejigbo because of the hardship caused by their unpaid pension.
But the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Adelani Baderinwa, rubbished the agitation of the pensioners, describing it as political.
“As a government, we categorically state that government has paid workers and pensioner up to date with the modulated structure agreed upon by the government and the labour unions since 2015.
“Government does not owe any worker or pensioner based on the modulated payment scheme as the pensioners have alleged.
“We wish to put it on record that (Governor Rauf) Aregbesola increased the amount being paid as pension by 500 per cent in 2011. The nonpayment of gratuity is not peculiar to Osun; and the government has shown its readiness to pay the gratuity as soon as the state’s finances improve.
“It is on record that this group of pensioners had, at one time or the other in the past, lied against the Government of the State of Osun; and in specific reference they had alleged that government collected a tranche of the Paris Club refund and diverted it, only to have a whole month wait for the actual release of the fund.”
In October, Buhari announced that the Federal Government released N1.64 trillion to states and local governments between 2015 and 2017 to enable them to pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years.