Many retired military personnel from different parts of the country protested in Abuja on Wednesday against the non-payment and non-harmonisation of their pension arrears since 2010.
The pensioners, who were marching to the Presidential Villa to register their protest, were however stopped by security operatives at the villa junction by the Federal Secretariat.
The pensioners tied black bands on their left arms, saying that it was to mourn their fallen colleagues, who paid the supreme price.
The pensioners had protested against the non-payment of the arrears on August 6.
Retired Warrant Officer Adona Abbas, the Chairman of the Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association, said the protest was over the non-payment of the balance of 53 per cent approved for retired military pensioners since 2010.
Abbas said that 33 per cent of the 53 per cent was paid in August 2013, leaving a balance of 20 per cent.
He said the leadership of the National Assembly Committees on Defence had promised that the money would be paid in August 2014 when they protested early in August.
He added: “We have not been paid hence we have come to protest because our members are dying.
“We have become beggars in this country, the country we fought to unite.
“Why should we become beggars?
“Our children cannot go to school.
“People are enjoying.
“If we had not fought to unite the country, these people cannot enjoy what they are enjoying now.”
Another pensioner, retired Warrant Officer Samuel Onobi, who said he retired in 2000, said: “We have been branded as unproductive elements by a highly placed government official.”
Onobi vowed that they would take their protest to office of the official if they were not paid.
“Our aim is to go to the presidential villa but we have been blocked,” he said.
He called on the authority concerned to release the money for the payment of the balance of their arrears as well as the harmonised pensions.
According to Onobi: “They tell us every year that our money is not captured in the budget but when the Ebola broke, it was captured.
“Was Ebola in the budget?
“What offence have we committed?
“Is it because we are old men that they are not paying us and underestimating us?”
“Even if we are illiterates, we were able to fight the war – civil war, to keep this country united, Staff Sergeant Johnson Okpakulu said.
The Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan, retired Brigadier General Oladehinde Arogbofa; and Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, met with the representatives of the protesting pensioners.
Speaking to newsmen after the meeting, Obanikoro promised that the grievances of the pensioners were being addressed, adding that government appreciated what they were going through.
He said: “Their grievances are receiving attention.
“We appreciate what they are going through.
“I want to assure you that action will be taken on some of the issues raised.
“This is democracy.
“They have every right to do what they have done and we have responded responsibly.
“It is normal to have issues and it is being responsible attending to them.”
Spokesman for the pensioners, retired Lieutenant Colonel Innocent Nas, told newsmen that they took the promise made by Arogbofa and Obanikoro seriously.
Nas, however, vowed that they would resume the protest by October 1 if government reneged on its promise to pay them.
He said: “We met highly respected senior officer, whom we know very well, we know his integrity.
“He has not been involved in it before and he is assuring us that he is doing something immediately and he is getting back to us within a week.
“We take that on his integrity.
“In any case, if we do not get our pay by the end of September, we will come back on October 1.
“We made it clear to him that we have been deceived several times, that is why we don’t trust.
“We rely on his integrity.”
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions such as: “Mr President, pay our 20 per cent balance of 53 per cent”; “We fought to unite this country.”