Former director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Dakuku Peterside, has described the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike as a “wicked and irresponsible”, following the peaceful protest by pensioners in the state.
Mr Peterside, a member of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers, was the party’s governorship candidate in the state in 2015. He lost the election to Mr Wike.
Pensioners in Rivers came out on Wednesday to protest the non-payment of their gratuities and pension arrears for over six years.
Mr Peterside, in a statement on Thursday, advised the governor to hearken to the voices of the retired senior citizens and pay them their outstanding entitlements without further delay.
He said the “governor cannot complain of lack of funds, because the state had received huge allocations in the last six years, in addition to Paris Club refund, credits from banks, and N75 billion refund from the federal government.”
The former governorship candidate said senior citizens have never been so ill-treated in Rivers.
“I was moved to tears when I saw the pictures of old men and women protesting at their age. This is embarrassing and shameful to a state that has enormous resources to pay them all their entitlements and allowances.
“Governor Wike still has an opportunity to redeem his battered image by immediately commencing the processes to pay them. On no account should they come out protesting again, enough is enough of their unmerited sufferings every year,” he said.
Mr Peterside said what has befallen the pensioners “typifies the attributes of a ‘wicked and irresponsible’ emperor, who derives pleasure in seeing people cry and sometimes die in the course of demanding for their rights”.
Meanwhile, in reaction, the Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, Paulinus Nsirim, refused to say if the state government was owing to the pensioners or not; he merely said a “thorough investigation” should be done before Mr Peterside’s remark is addressed.
“When you see allegations like these, investigate them. Be sure that what the person is alleging is correct and then confront the person that is being accused. Not just someone throwing something there and then you begin to give the person cheap publicity.
“I’m sure if you have been following the development in the state over these few months, you will know the character of the person who is talking. That’s for me,” he said.
The Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Rivers State Council, in 2018, said the Rivers State Government was owing pensioners in the state N60 billion since 1999.