A week ago Pensioners in Imo State matched on the streets of Owerri to Protest the non payment of their 5 months pensions by the state government.
The Pensioners in their numbers besieged the Imo State government house with placards , stating their situations and drawing public attention to their plight.
Among the protesting Pensioners were the very old, and the middle aged, The Very weak and the Sick, features of old age and poverty induced blindness and deafness.
The non payment of pensions have sent a good number of pensioners to early graves while the condition of some is helpless and beggarly.
The situation of the pensioners in Imo is a microcosm of pensioners in public service across the country.
Pension is payment made to people of retirement age and above as a regular source of livelihood.
Retirement age in Nigeria is not fixed across board even in mainstream public service, institutions and parastatals
The Public Service rule requires a person to retire from public service after 35years or when a person turns 60.
However this is not the case in other public institutions for the reason that they are not under the public service rule.
Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Education and the Judiciary are good examples.
Initially the professional cadre in Universities enjoyed a 65year compulsory retirement age, while non academic staff retire at age 60.
But that situation changed under former President Goodluck Jonathan who in August 2010,raised the retirement age of academic staff from 65 to 70 with a five year increase for non academic staff, polytechnics and colleges of Education.
The Judiciary has a 65year compulsory retirement age except for the Supreme Court judges whose retirement age was extended from 65 to 70 by Late Head of State General Sani Abacha .Abacha had in the wake of the June 12, extended retirement of Supreme Court judges by 5yesrs.
The importance of regular payment of pensions cannot be overemphasized against the backdrop of support and protection it offers to those who have retired from active service.
Before the 2004 pension act was enacted, Government made budgetary provisions for pensions and pay pension benefits into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
This is in contrast to the
Contributory Pension Scheme CPS which requires workers to have a saving account that is managed by the pension fund administrators.
A brief look at pension development in Nigeria since assent was made to scheme revealed a situation that is headed in the same direction with the old ways.
The protests that are synonymous with the old ways are still prevalent I and resonating with not much relief in sight.
It is quite unfortunate that many years after the birth of a noble scheme, such as the CPS, the situation of public Pensioners still leaves much to be desired.
The,2004 pension act makes it difficult for public servants who were employed before enactment of the act to transfer to the CPS and as such they cannot draw their pension benefits from the scheme.
What this means is that they are still stuck on the old system where government makes budgetary provisions for pension and pays whenever it deemed necessary to pay.
In such situation, the pensioner is at the mercy of the presiding Government official
Unpaid pension varies in states,some states owe pensioners more than 4years, Some 2 and others from 5 months to one year as the case in lmo proved.
Unpaid pension is institiutionlaised culture definitive of the nation’s deficiency in welfare of senior citizens in the country. It shows the nation”s lack of concern for the people who rendered selfless and meritorious services to their fatherland.
That workers under the public service are the worst paid in the country is no longer in doubt.That their strength, youthfulness, commitment and resilience stoked up the engineering processes for successful governance is also not in doubt so why should the worker suffer when he retires from service?
Why should the retired worker be treated in a manner that suggests he is no longer at ease?
As a matter of urgency Government should look into the issue of unpaid pensions to lift pensioners from abject poverty.
The cunning style by those in authority to only clear salary arrears and pensions when they are seeking re-election should stop if indeed they have iota of conscience and empathy
The golden rule”Do unto others what you like them to do unto you,’is a guidance that should naturally register in our hearts and minds
The Public Service pentioner along with those in active service are among the population of extreme poor. For instance
a director in the civil service earns less than 1000 dollars per month and cannot build a house of his own even if he chooses to save his earnings for 5years to do so.
Those on the lower cadre have more pathetic challenges
And when a system that should guarantee their security of livelihood is threatened and contrived,, it gives room for corruption and conspiracy to stall efforts and operations where they work.
Government owes Pensioners a duty to clear pensions and other entitlements while ensuring that workers under the CPS do not asuffer from unpaid benefits.
In settling unpaid pensions, there would be possibility of grey areas that may be encountered.
it behoves the Government to look at shoddy outcomes and prosecute offenders to give faith to the process.
The public service pensioner should not be seen as endangered specie as he has right to live.
Having the right to live requires satisfying exigencies which regular payment of pensions would give.
It is disheartening that those who retire cannot earn income from other sources apart from government pensions because insecurity in the country has made it more difficult for people to seek other means of livelihood like farming and fishing.
Those who dared to do so have met with ugly experiences like rape,and death.
Expectedly the Imo government has made a commitment that it will pay the pensioners their entitlements in a few days after the Pensioners would have submitted their BVN as the government had made it clear that it is sanitizing the pension system to check fraud it discovered.
A senior Government official,Declan Emelumba had affirmed government position on sorting out anomalies but the question is how long will it take government to clear the Augean stables and restore the peoples confidence in the government?
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