Earlier today, pensioners in Lagos trooped out to protest the non-payment of their entitlements by the Lagos State Government. The retired protesters threatened to place a curse on Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, adding that they would come naked to the governor.
The demonstration proceeded despite a decision by the Nigerian Labor Congress to cancel its solidarity strike that was scheduled for yesterday. The protest of the elderly pensioners was coordinated by members of various civil society groups in Lagos.
The placard-carrying protesters described Mr. Fashola as the only exception in the South-West, noting that other Yoruba-speaking states had paid all agreed sums to pensioners.
“Because I cannot feed, if I die, I’ll be stripped naked for bathing and burial. So, I will not wait until I die before I strip naked for Fashola to see what he did,” said one female retiree. As she spoke, many other pensioners echoed her, telling reporters in unison that they would do the same.
The pensioners gave the Lagos State government an ultimatum to pay their outstanding entitlements no later than May 10, 2013. “If by [10th of May] we do not hear from them, they will hear from us,” the Lagos State chairman of the Pensioners Union said in his address. Abiodun Aremu, the secretary of Joint Action Front, called on youths to join forces with the elderly pensioners in pursuit of their rights. “If we do not fight for our elders, we cannot secure the future of our youths,” said Mr. Aremu.
Many of the pensioners said they had pleaded enough, hence their decision to fight for their rights. “We are not begging for alms, we are fighting for our rights,” one of them said to wide applause.
Several of the pensioners disclosed that they were being owed ten years arrears of a 6% increase awarded during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration and six years arrears of another 15% increment afterwards.
The Lagos State government had gone to court to contest the increased pay scales initiated by the Federal Government. The state had taken a similar position on the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS), triggering a strike by doctors in the state. The drama culminated in Governor Fashola’s controversial sack of 788 government-employed doctors in one day.
The pensioners had met with representatives of the state government on May 28, 2012. The state promised then to work on the pensioners’ demands. Almost a year later, the pensioners say they have been abandoned to dire conditions without a word from the Lagos State Government on its promise, even after other states had paid up.
Two protesting pensioners told reporters that they were ready to strip themselves in a ritual protest if the government failed to meet their May 10 ultimatum.