Will Wike, Udom, Dickson Rescue These Citizens From The Claws Of Death?,… Rivers Pensioners Weep, Wait For Death Over Unpaid Entitlements,… In A’Ibom, Hopeless Ukanafun Refugees Beg Udom,… From Bayelsa, Condemned Killer Wife Looks Up To Dickson

  • Written by  Solomon Parakom/PH, John Odhe/Yenagoa, with agency (Straightnews) reports
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Will Wike, Udom, Dickson Rescue These Citizens From The Claws Of Death?,… Rivers Pensioners Weep, Wait For Death  Over Unpaid Entitlements,… In A’Ibom, Hopeless Ukanafun Refugees Beg Udom,… From Bayelsa, Condemned Killer Wife Looks Up To Dickson

The fate of some citizens of Rivers and Akwa Ibom, including that of a woman in Bayelsa State is now in the hands of the governors of those states-Nyesom Wike, Udom Emmanuel and Seriake Dickson, respectively.

In Rivers State, thousands of unpaid pensioners whose benefits have been denied them for years, are at the mercies of death. They want the governor to have mercy on them, otherwise they may die while waiting for their unpaid entitlements.

In Akwa Ibom State, it is about refugees from Ukanafun who had to flee their homes as a result of the activities of militants. Some of them who spoke either in an interview or through a letter to the governor pleaded with the governor to save them from untimely death.

And in Bayelsa State, a housewife, Victoria Gagariga who was sentenced to death by handing, by a Yenagoa High Court is yet to appeal against the judgement. If she will be executed soon depends on the decision of the governor who is being awaited to endorse her execution.

Rivers Pensioners to Wike: Pay us before we die

About 5,875 pensioners who dutifully served the Rivers State government and its agencies for 35 years are currently going through untold economic hardship.

This is because their genuine entitlements have not been paid to them and there are no clear signals that Wike has any immediate plans to do so.

As at the time of filing this report, it was not exactly certain why the government continues to ignore the prolonged cry of its numerous pensioners .

But there were strong indications that some top government officials may have contributed to the delay in the payment. Investigations conducted by TNN in Port Harcourt revealed that in spite of the receipt of bail-out funds by the Rivers State government from its federal counterpart, the government was still owing retirees for about 20  months.

Consequently, the pensioners are unable to satisfactorily provide for their families, while some of their biological children are dropping out of schools on weekly basis.

A retiree who simply identified himself as T.W. Akiode said: "Some of our colleagues have died while waiting for their payments. As it is, there appears to be no glimmer of hope that our situation would get any better under this administration.

"So many of us are sick, infirm and have stayed without payments for up to 20 months. We hardly afford one reasonable meal per day for our family members.

"Our children are out from schools, because of no money for their schooling”.

He, however, passionately appealed to Governor Nyesom Wike to see to their terrible and pitiable state.

Another retiree who is now bedridden, Anthony Levi  Igodo, lamented the untold hardship experienced by the pensioners, just as he claimed that the Rivers State government was the only government that had refused to pay attention to the increase in pension rates for so many years now.

"I want to categorically state here that the Rivers State government is yet to pay off all the pensions of the state.

"Some of us trained most of the political leaders, so it is injustice and inhuman for the senior citizens not to be paid their pension and gratuity entitlements and be respected", he emphasized.

Commenting on the issue, state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners , NUP, Edward Festus-Abido, told TNN that for over 15 years since the review of pensions, salaries, incomes and wages, they had not been paid.

He said : "The money owed pensioners by the Rivers State government since 1999 to date is up to N60 billion, including the increase in the pension rates approved by the national salaries, incomes and wages commission ".

Festus-Abido complained that every effort to draw the attention of the governor to the plight of the retired civil servants had proved abortive.

When contacted, the head of civil service, Rufus Godwins stated that the present administration in the state had prioritized the payment of salaries to civil servants and pensioners.

According to him, in fulfilment of one of his campaign promises to the people of Rivers State, Wike ensured the regular payment of salaries to workers and pension benefits to pensioners.

"There is no doubt that the regular payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities has assisted immensely to stabilize the state's economy,” he claimed.

Husband Killer fails to appeal judgement, her fate still in Dickson's hand

Bayelsa born 30-year old woman, Victoria, who was sentenced to death by hanging in February, 2018 for killing her husband, Henry Gagariga is yet to appeal against the court judgement. Also, the governor is yet to endorse for her to be killed.

Victoria killed her husband on February 4, 2015 by stabbing him on the neck after a brawl  at their residence along Ebisam Road, Akenfa in Yenagoa.

A tortuous legal battle to save her lingered for three years before the soul of the late Henry Gagariga got justice. At a State High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the presiding judge, Justice Enai Aganaba in passing the judgment, said her death sentence became inevitable as the murder charge against the accused was proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Until her condemnation to death by hanging, Victoria who hails from Brass Local Government, was a staff of the state arts and culture, where his late father also worked.

TNN authoritatively gathered that since the judgement was passed over four months ago, no appeal has been made to set aside the verdict of the lower court, neither has the judgement been executed.

Our correspondent reliably gathered that the best the supposed appellant counsel to the condemned person could do was to submit an appeal notice to the appeal registry in Yenagoa. He left it at that stage.

One court official told TNN that "the accused/appellant counsel brought a notice of appeal to the appeal registry with which we went to the court where the judgement was delivered and got the case file and the exhibit. As I speak with you, the case file and the exhibit are now with the appeal registry.

"The appellant counsel only came to know what it takes to transmit the records to the appeal court in Port Harcourt and we gave him the cost. He has not returned so we have not transmitted the records to the appeal court.

As it stands, the appeal is still pending because the records have not been transmitted to the appeal court and that means the case has not been appealed".

Meanwhile, tongues have been wagging as to why the verdict of the court has not been executed several months after since no appeal was made.

Family members of the deceased as well as some public individuals who spoke to TNN on the matter have likened the situation to a judicial system where the law has refused to take its course.

They argued that if those in the habit of taking the lives of others were treated with kid gloves, such heinous crimes against humanity would persist unabated in the society.

A legal practitioner in Yenagoa, Great Temedie gave a legal insight to the situation, stating that the governor must assent his signature before a death sentence could be executed.

Temedie, however said a state governor or chief judge had the prerogative to pardon such offenders from undergoing capital punishment. He explained further that one of the reasons why delays abound in such cases was because capital punishment had become archaic in the eyes of the international community.

The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kemasuode Wodu who was supposed to speak on the matter could not be tracked down for an interview in the last three weeks.

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