Vanguard (Lagos)

22 December 2012

Nigeria: Bleak Christmas for Pensioners As 259,000 Abandoned to Die

ABOUT 259,000 retired state teachers and civil servants in the 36 states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, are literally eating from the dust bins due to non-payment of their pensions and gratuities.The number of retirees which range from 6,000 to 12,000 in each state, excludes retirees at the federal level, who are being owed entitlements; some for a period of 10 years.

Arrest Maina,Senate directs IGP

This is coming on the heels of last week's directive by the Senate, asking the police to arrest the Chairman of the Federal Task Force on Pensions, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina over alleged missing N195 billion Pensions Fund.

Senator Kabiru Gaya, PDP, Kano South, who asked for the rules to be applied on Abdulrasheed following Maina's absence at the Senate to answer questions on the missing fund said, "I think we have the rules and we have the power. We have the power to request the police to arrest Maina and bring him before us here."

The Chairman of the Joint Senate Committee, Senator Aloysius Etok, PDP, Akwa Ibom North-West, said "we request the Inspector General of Police to arrest him."

According to Senator Etok, "we have sent the warrant of arrest to the Senate President to sign to be forwarded to the Inspector General of Police for necessary action."

Retirees live in penury

However, a random survey carried out by Vanguard across the country showed that apart from few states like Anambra, Lagos, Edo and Delta, retired workers are living in penury as both the federal and state governments have abandoned them to their fate.

Uduaghan approves N1.2bn in Delta

In Delta State, although government was owing the retired workers some arrears of pensions and gratuities, the Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan last week approved N1.2 billion for the payment of arrears to about 12,000 retirees.

Uduaghan said, "we will pay you the arrears; we are working out the modalities for the payment. The N1.2 billion had been approved since August 2011; we will begin the payment this month. We have conducted screening exercises in the state. In the first exercise about 5,000 pensioners were captured while in the second exercise, we got about 9,700 pensioners but only 7,000 were physically sighted."

*Some of the Pensioners at one of the screening exercises

Section 173(3) of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that entitlements of pensioners must be reviewed upwards once every five years but the constitutional provision is obeyed in the breach, as none of the three tiers of government had ever complied with it.

11,000 retireeslament in Ogun

In Ogun State, no fewer than 11,000 retired civil servants are lamenting their alleged continued neglect by state government. The state Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Mr. Bola Lawal, said many pensioners had died without gratuity while several others were on their sick beds as their pensions and gratuities had not been regular in the last three years. Lawal told Vanguard in an interview in Abeokuta that none of the pensioners on the former employment of both the Federal and state civil service had also benefited from the six and 15 per cent increase in pensions since 2003.

It's gloomy tide in Oyo, Plateau

Retired workers in Oyo State were being owed several months of their entitlements, even as the issue reached a crisis point during the last administration of Governor Christopher Alao-Akala, who failed to pay the senior citizens as at when due.

Also, in Plateau State, the situation is even more complicated as those still in the service of the government had not been paid in the last six months, not to talk of the retired workers.

Bauchi: NUP protests N5.3 bn arrears

In Bauchi State, Vanguard learnt that the story of the neglect of the nation's senior citizens as the 3,000- strong membership of the NUP, Tuesday demonstrated over alleged non-settlement of the entitlements amounting to over N5.3 billion.

It's suffering galore in Enugu

According to the findings, the Enugu State government had not paid any entitlements to its teachers and other civil servants who retired since 2010 even as those who left service earlier were being owed 27 months arrears between 2002 and 2004.

Retired primary school teachers in the state said that the NUP agreed with Governor Sullivan Chime to discuss the modalities for the settlement of the 27 months arrears on May 11, 2009, adding that Chime promised to off-set the backlog of arrears within 14 months from then but reneged on his promise.

Both federal pensioners and their counterparts in the Abia State civil service were also full of lamentations over their plight saying that the were being weighed down due to the hardship they go through on account of non-payment of their monthly pensions, which arrears had run into several months.

For 77 year old, Pa Stephen Onuoha who retired as a Railway staff, life has been like hell as his pensions have not been paid for over four months.

He told Vanguard that, "we are not talking about harmonization as we have not seen the old one. You can see me, in my condition, I struggle to queue up to do one clearance or the other, and most times after the so called verification nothing comes. We are suffering".

However, on gratuity, the retired federal worker said, his gratuity was paid "on time and at once because, things were not as rotten" as they were today.

"I do not know the legacy the governments at both the state and federal levels want to leave if they can not pay old people who laid the foundation of what they are now destroying instead of building. My son, it is only God that will save us. It is difficult for us", Onuoha lamented.

According to the retirees, the ugly situation in which retired workers at both the federal, state and local governments had made people, especially young civil servants to get involved in corrupt enrichment to prepare themselves for their own retirements.

Retirees praise govt, seek review in Jigawa

In Jigawa State, the NUP said that although they were being paid their pensions, the government had failed to review their entitlements in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

However, the state chapter of NUP has suspended its planned protest following the intervention of the state Head of Service, Alhaji Mustapha Aminu, who assured them that the state government would look into their grievances with a view to addressing them.

The state chairman of the NUP, Alhaji Mohammed Ayuba, said the decision to suspend the planned protest as directed by the national leadership of the association was because of the timely intervention of the State Head of Service

According to Ayuba the NUP was however enjoying cordial relationship with the state and local governments in Jigawa State. Said he: "State and local governments in Jigawa State are enjoying good relationship with us because the government ensured that all pensioners get their pension and gratuities as at when due. We get our pensions paid before other civil servants get their salaries in the state. The state government has even assured pensioners in the state that in accordance with the provision of the 1999 Constitution as amended, pensions are subject to review every five years, and the governor has assured that our pension will be increased next year."

Poor records hurt retirees in Sokoto

Vanguard was told in Sokoto State that retired teachers were not paid for upwards of 15 years before the administration of Governor Magatakada Wamakko."For about 15 years, there was no Teachers' Pension Board, TPB, to oversee the plight of retired teachers. Because of this, there was no records of retired teachers, hence a good number of them have not enjoyed their pensions and gratuity till date," Alhaji Umaru Bagida, 70, from Tangaza who retired from service six years ago said, adding that that since he retired, he had not been paid his gratuity. "I retired from teaching service six years ago but have not been paid my gratuity although I receive my monthly pension regularly," he said.

Sokoto state chairman of NUP, Alhaji Ahmed Ciroma said that there are about 2,000 retired teachers in Sokoto state, adding that the state government released between N25 million and N30 million monthly for the payment of pension to retired teachers.

Retirees smile in Anambra, Edo

Investigations showed that for many years between 1999 to 2003, pensioners in Anambra State bemoaned their fate as they had no hope of receiving their monthly pensions. Those who were due to retire from service then were always afraid of the uncertainty they were going to face, as government could not pay their pensions and gratuities. During the administration of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, pensioners were always embarking on demonstration to the seat of government to prevail on the authorities to pay them.

Mbadinuju, who governed the state from 1999 to 2003, was said to have described pensioners in the state as dead woods and urged them to leave government alone, although he later debunked the report, saying the it was the handiwork of his political opponents who were bent on tarnishing his image. His successor in office, Senator Chris Ngige however, reversed the ugly trend, which has been maintained by Governor Peter Obi.

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