No fewer than 600 pensioners, including an 85-year old man, have complained about the current screening exercise for retirees in Cross River State, describing it as embarrassing and the worst experience for them in recent times.
Some of the pensioners, who could neither walk nor see, were helped to the screening venue at Eteta Ita Street by their younger relatives, but they were stranded under the sun and rain as no officials attended to them.
Looking haggard and frail, most of them had to report for the exercise following an announcement on radio just as the 85-year old man who simply identified himself as Agbo, said: “As you have seen, we came and saw the crowd but nothing is happening apart from people who are just writing down their names.
“We don’t know what they are writing names for. We have not even seen the officials. If senior citizens are treated this way, then it is unfortunate. We don’t even know why we are here.”
Another pensioner, Ntufam Mike Etim, said that, “The last time we did the screening was at the Accountant General’s office last year. I retired in 2014 and since then this would be the fourth screening.
“Maybe it has to do with the direct remittance of funds to local government areas because state governments were using local government funds to augment pensioners.
“This is too bad for our age. Some of us cannot even work and were brought here by their grandchildren. How do you expect them to cope with this kind of punishment meted out to senior citizens?
“Government should come up with a better management approach to the issue,” he said.
Another pensioner, a retired permanent secretary since 2004, Chief Azumma John said, “We came here since morning. I am number 133 on the list and that list is not even official. It is written on a piece of paper.
“Nobody seems to know what is going on. We asked the sub-treasurer what was going on and he said he doesn’t know what was being done here, saying it was the sub-treasurer who should know and make arrangement for these people.”
“In fact, I was so embarrassed to see judges whom I know standing on the line in this open place. Is this how to care for senior citizens? Is this how senior citizens should be treated? He queried.
“This arrangement is embarrassing and unfair. The information should have been given in good time to enable us prepare for the exercise with frequent announcements.
However, the state’s Accountant General, Mr. Charles Adie, who signed the radio announcement, was not in office to respond to the issues raised by the pensioners.
But a civil servant who pleased anonymity, said the state government was doing a staff audit, which includes pensioners and that the delay was due to logistics challenges.