By Nick Chibunna
Judgment in the case of pensioners in Imo State and the government over non-payment of pensions and gratuities have been fixed for July 5 by the National Industrial Court sitting in Owerri and presided over by Hon Justice O.Y. Anuwe.
When the suit (NICN/OW/14/2017) was mentioned, Barrister Uche Durueke leading a team of lawyers from the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), including its state chairman Barr. L.U. Nwakaeti appeared for the plaintiff which included, the NUP, Chief Gideon Ezeji, Evan. L.U. Ashiegbu and Hon. F. Agba.
On the other hand, the Senior State Counsel and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Mrs. A.N. Eluwa led a team of other lawyers which included M.I. Marume, G.C. Iheanacho, Osita C., M.I. Obiji, B.C. Adim and S.C. Ugogu, appeared for the defendants who were listed as Imo State governor, Attorney General and Commissioner for justice, State Auditor General, State Accountant General and Head of Service.
The leading counsel to the plaintiff, Barr. Uche Durueke made submissions on the premise of ten written and sworn affidavits on the plight of pensioners as a result of non-payment of their pensions and gratuities.
According to him pension is a right and not a privilege, as no person no matter how highly placed has the right to tamper with some one’s pension. He also said that it was unlawful and tantamount to gross injustice to ask Imo pensioners to receive 40% of their legitimate entitlements and forfeit 60% to the state government.
He said that the claims of Imo State government that it did not force anybody to accept the offer is baseless.
On the fresh exhibit tendered in the court in which the first and second defendants issued another form slashing the plaintiffs’ monthly pension by 50%. Barr. Durueke prayed the court to disregard the proposal.