From Steve Oko, Umuahia
Some pensioners protesting pension arrears in Abia State were Thursday morning arrested and detained by the police.
The pensioners according to their mouthpiece were arrested on the orders of a highly placed Government official.
Those arrested were Daniel Amugo , and Chukwuemeka Augustus, the Chairman and Secretary of Abia State Concerned Pensioners, respectively.
Addressing newsmen in Umuahia on the development, the Vice Chairman of the pensioners union, Elder John Kalu, said the arrested senior citizens were picked up after a meeting with the Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Aham Uko in his office at the Government House.
According to him, the pensioners had earlier planned to stage a peaceful protest but the Commissioner of Finance invited their Chairman and Secretary for a parley in his office.
He said that they were still in the meeting when the Commissioner was allegedly called on phone by another top government official who told him he was on his way to the venue of the meeting.
Elder Kalu said that shortly after the phone conversation, some police personnel accosted the pensioners on their way after the meeting and whisked them away to the Area Command located at the Central Police Station Umuahia.
Meanwhile, when other senior citizens who had converged at the Sub-Treasury, Bende Road got wind of the sad development, they marched to the police station but were locked out at the gate.
However, after much pleading and dialogue, few of their representatives were allowed entry into the station where they sought to know why their leaders were put behind bars.
The Area Commander, after discussions with the pensioners referred them to the Commissioner of Police at the State Headquarters who he said had directed they should come to meet him.
Meanwhile the wife of one of the detained senior citizens, Mrs. Chiamaka Daniel was spotted at the police station weeping uncontrollably over the plight of her aged husband.
The agitated pensioners later marched to the Police Headquarters where their representatives held meeting with the Police Commissioner, Mr. Ene Okon, behind closed doors.
Later in an interview, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO in the state, Mr. Geoffrey Ogbonna, said the pension leaders were picked up for impersonation.
He said there was a petition against them alleging impersonation of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP leaders in the state.
The PPRO said that the national body of NUP when contacted, disowned them, adding that they are still being investigated.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of the Concerned Pensioners, Elder Kalu denied allegation of impersonation, saying they never claimed leadership of NUP.
Elder Kalu who accused the state leadership of NUP of hobnobbing with the state government at the expense of pensioners explained that the docility of the NUP leadership over the welfare of pensioners led to the formation of the pressure group.
He said that the little payment of pension arrears by the state government was as a result of pressure by the group, alleging that the state leadership of NUP is inactive.
Some of the pensioners claimed they were owed for 34 months spanning two administrations in the state.
“I’m owed for 34 months and was just paid one month in January which they said was for November 2019″, yelled one of the aggrieved retirees.
The senior citizens who were all decked in black attires vowed never to leave the entrance gate to the Police Headquarters until their leaders were released.
When contacted , the Finance Commissioner denied any involvement in the matter saying he never had any meeting with the arrested pensioners.
” Not me, not me at all. Please do your investigations well”, he said in a phone interview with our correspondent.
Attempt to reach the Information Commissioner, Chief John Okiyi Kalu did not yield fruit as his phone was switched off.
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