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LAGOS, NIGERIA.     Wednesday, August 25 2004





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Ex-Biafran police officers want gratuities, others
From Lawrence Njoku, Enugu

POLICE officers who were dismissed but later granted pardon for their involvement in the Nigerian civil war yesterday urged the Federal Government to expedite action and pay them their gratuities and pensions.

The former officers from the South-East and South-South geo-political zones who spoke in Enugu, also deplored the attitude of the apex-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo over their plight.

Addressing reporters at the end of their meeting in Enugu, the former officers, under the aegis of Association of Retired War Affected Police Officers (ARWAPO), called on President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene in their matter.

The group, which spoke through its chairman, Charles. I. Machie, stated that more than 40 of the affected officers had died since July 2000 when they were granted pardon.

He added that economic hardship was threatening their families while some had withdrawn their children and wards from schools due to financial problem.

About 1,520 officers were involved in the sack. After a series of protests over what they termed "unfair treatment", Obasanjo had in May 2000 granted them pardon in his first year anniversary. The pardon meant they were now retires of the Police Force.

The President had also in continuation of that "magnanimity" on February 15, 2001, approved the payment of their gratuities and pensions with effect from May 29, 2000.

The gesture, which came during the tenure of former Inspector General of Police, Mr. M.K. Smith till date, has not been translated into monetary gains as the police retirees were yet to get any benefit.

They added: "Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Igbo politicians have been unfair to us. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is fighting for the interest of Ndigbo, yet most people affected in the dismissal who are of Igbo extraction cannot feel the existence of the group. One expects that having gone so far to get Obasanjo to grant us amnesty and approve payment of our pensions and gratuities, the apex Igbo union should have ensured that we were paid.

Asked whether the group had formally sought the intervention of Ohanaeze in the matter, Machie said he had mentioned it to the organisation, stressing that there was no other formal report.

"Most of the people affected are Igbo. Many people are aware of this matter and if they are waiting for a formal gathering, they are not being fair to us", he stated.

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