By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Daniel Emeribe
Alhaji Nojeemdeen Adebayo Ibrahim, is the Lagos State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP). At a recent a celebration of the Pensionersâ€™ Day, he spoke to Pension and You on the challenges facing pensioners and how banks are compounding their plight.
How would you appraise the state of Nigeriaâ€™sÂ pensioners today?
Generally, l there has been some improvements, but not all around the country, we have some poverty stricken pensioners in some state they are suffering a lot because at the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Calabar,Â a lot of problems facing pensioners mostly with the Federal share of pensions were highlighted and theyÂ are enormous that are not worth repeating .
However, in my report I made mention of about 20,000 names of federal pensioners that their names disappearedÂ Â from the pay role. The question is, where did the names go? The money will be some where, may be a lot of ghostÂ pensioners are beinhÂ paid that money which belongÂ to those 20,000 pensioners . Genuine pensioners whose names were removed from the pay role but what I am trying to stress has nothing to do withÂ Lagos state pensioners at all,Â both in the local government, judicial pensioners and the civil service. We do not have such problems in Lagos, except forÂ those federal pensioners in Lagos state who are suffering .Â I could remember the case of those from Oyo state who went on rampage in Ibadan when the suffering became unbearable.
However, with a lot of pieces of advice and many other things, they were toldÂ to maintain peace thatÂ andÂ beÂ ready to lay our cards on the table before those at the helm of affairs at the federal. level. Never the less, Dr. Shuwaib of the office of head of service is really trying his best , working morning and night to service us. But his best has not done the magic. That is why we are calling for some reforms to be done so thatÂ pensioners in Nigeria will look like their counterparts in other countries who are well catered for.
In specific terms, what sort of reforms are you talking about?
Most especially the process that allows the disappearance of genuine pensionersâ€™ names from the pay roll. Again, when the money isÂ paid into various banks,Â theÂ banksÂ short pay pensioners and this short payment does not arise from theÂ office of the head of service but from the banks who are paying . Then,Â delay in payments are always done by the banks because when we made enquiries fromÂ the office of the head of service,Â we came to know it is the process ofÂ crediting accounts by the banks that is unnecessarilyÂ cumbersome. Hence pensioners suffer. .Â So, that is part of the problems that we are encountering.
TheÂ biggestÂ problem of pensioners is when you do not pay as at when due. How much is the money thatÂ the banks areÂ withholding ? Then harmonization,Â when it is done,Â you do not implement despite the factÂ pensioners die day by day and once one pensioner dies the money goes. Increase in pension ought to take place whenever r an increase is made on the monthly salaries of the working class. The problem is that, it is not implemented immediately both in the Federal and the states. We go to the same market with those that are still working.Â They have had salary increaseÂ but we are still begging the Federal government to pay us.
You saidÂ about 20,000 haveÂ have been missing from the pay roll since 2002,Â what effort have you made to ensure that these names are returned toÂ the pay roll and their arrears paid ?
We went to the office of head of service severally beforeÂ the verification of pensioners commenced and based on our complaints, members of House of representatives in-charge of pension and related matters led by their Chairman, came to Lagos. He alsoÂ went roundÂ the country to do proper verification to make sure that these names are included.
Between last year when you had Pensionersâ€™ day and today, how many ofÂ your members in Lagos, unfortunately, have passedÂ on ?
I do not have the numbers because it is those that I know and those that had been reported to me thatÂ I will know.Â Â I can tell you thatÂ we have lost quite a number. It is a common knowledge thatÂ pensioners die daily What I am stressing is that in Lagos state,Â Governor,Â Babatunde Fashola SANÂ is a listening governor so,Â delay in payment of pension is not an issue in Lagos state.Â Non-payment of pensions and gratuities is now a thing of the past as he pays as andÂ when due. For a governor to earmark over N5bilionÂ for pensionersâ€™ benefits, we give him big kudos he is a man and long may he live.
You are calling on the federal government to declare todayÂ (December 11) nationalÂ pension day, as a union,Â what are you doingÂ to influence the actualisation of this objective?
We are not doing this alone, we go through our mother union that is the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as they have done for those who are working by declaring the May Day,Â letÂ the day also be giving to us who are pensioners,Â at least a rest day so that people will know that this is our day as done in someÂ foreign countries.