By Nick Chibunna
Imo pensioners last Wednesday took to the streets in jubilation, following the national Industrial Court judgement in Owerri, restraining the Imo State government from tampering with their pensions and gratuities, either in parts or whole.
In a judgement that lasted 50 minutes and delivered by Hon Justice O.Y. Anuwe, ‘the court declared inter-alia, that no government has the right to withhold in parts or whole the pensions or gratuities of any pensioner; that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees payment of pensions and gratuities to pensioners; that the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) is a registered trade union and can sue if its rights were infringed upon; that it is unlawful and tantamount to gross injustice to ask Imo pensioners to accept 40 per cent of their legitimate entitlements and forfeit 60 per cent to the state government; and that a pensioner should receive his or her 100 per cent entitlements without anybody tampering with them’.
Since February, the Imo State Council of NUP had been in court the over non-payment and slashing of their pensions and gratuities, and also a over a form alleged to have been issued by the government requiring pensioners to swear to an oath slashing their montly pensions by 50 per cent.
When the suit (NICN/OW/14/0217) was mentioned, both the leading counsel to the plaintiff and defendants, Barr. Uche Durueke, and Barr. Chukwunonye Osita, respectively, were present in court.
In her judgement, Justice Anuwe granted an injunction restraining the Imo State government from tampering with the pensions and gratuities of pensioners, adding that Imo pensioners should be paid their 100 per cent entitlements in both pensions and gratuities.
After the judgement, Barr. Durueke and the Imo State Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Barr. L.U. Nwaketti prayed God to strengthen and energize the judge to enable her to carry out her duties without fear or favour.
Fielding questions from journalists after the judgement, Bar. Durueke said that the judgement was a victory not only to Imo pensioners but to Nigerian pensioners as a whole.
Also speaking to journalist, the elated state chairman of NUP in Imo, Chief G.U. Ezeji, told all the chairmen and secretaries of the 27 local government area branches of the union to go and spread the good tidings to the local branches.
Counsel to the defendants, Barr. Osita, declined to comment on the judgement.