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Two old pensioners died and three others slumped during a verification exercise ordered by the Bayelsa State Government.The incident occurred on Monday and Tuesday at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex, at Ovom area, Yenagoa, the state capital.
Of the three pensioners that collapsed, two were said to have survived while one is said to be in coma at a private hospital in the state capital.
The inclement weather occasioned by the continuous downpour contributed to worsening the hardship of the pensioners during the exercise.
The exercise which started on Monday was initiated by the state government to get the actual figure of the pensioners.
However, the retirees complained that the exercise had many hiccups and urged the government to find a lasting solution to their plight.
Sources said the unnamed two dead pensioners were initially taken to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, but because of the ongoing strike there, their remains were taken to an undisclosed morgue at a private hospital in the state.
The Chairman, Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Bayelsa Action Group chapter, Chief Bodi Amaran, confirmed the incident on Tuesday.
Amaran said four pensioners slumped on Monday, out of which two died while the other two survived. He added that on Tuesday, another pensioner collapsed and relapsed into a coma.
He lamented the plight of pensioners in the state, saying that they (pensioners) were being treated as refugees.
Amaran, who said the pensioners were owed nine months, noted that many of them were hungry while others had been on drugs but were unable to buy their medications due to the deplorable conditions.
Shedding light on the incident, he said, “Four pensioners collapsed on Monday. Of the number, two died but the other two were revived. On Tuesday, one elderly pensioner slumped. He is in a coma as I speak.
“The Monday incident happened in the afternoon while that of Tuesday happened when the rain was falling. For nine months, we have not been paid.
“The conditions of most pensioners are pitiable. We are being treated as refugees. The last month we got paid was in September 2015.”
When asked to give the names of the deceased pensioners, Amaran said they had yet to confirm their names and their local governments, promising to furnish this correspondent with the names later.
Another pensioner, Mr. Daniel Ogobugha, said he was not happy with the method adopted for the verification, adding that the government should have combined the payment of the arrears with the exercise.
He said, “Yes, we have been here since morning. Many of our people have fainted some critical ones have been rushed to the hospital. The government is helping but this exercise is very stressful to us.
“Most of us are aged; some can no longer walk but look at us here-we are here for verification. Well, if it is the way to fish out fake pensioners, it is okay but I must tell you that this is not good due to the health of some of us.
“Some of us are being owed over six months. We can’t pay our children’s school fees. With the current harsh economy, feeding has been a huge challenge to some families.”
Another retiree, Mr. Richard Epiri, urged the state government to expedite action on paying the backlog of their pensions.
The Chairperson, Bayelsa Pensions Board, Mrs. Jane Aleke, said the pensioners collapsed because of exhaustion, but she did not indicate if any death occurred.
She confirmed that the affected persons were rushed to the Government House Clinic.
Aleke said that the exercise was not aimed at stressing the retirees, but to enable the government get actual figure of pensioners.
She appealed to the retirees to be calm, promising that every pensioner in the state would be captured in the exercise.
“This is about the management of wealth and you know in paying them, the state government cannot just begin to pay with a guessed number. So, we cannot do a guess work.
“We are ready to reach all the local governments in the state. We have started with Yenagoa. For those of them who are sick and cannot walk, we will definitely go to their houses,” she said.