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They Labour In Vain

YEARS ago it was said people would enjoy the fruit of their labour. Based on this belief, so many people invested their youth in the future of Nigeria. They shunned corruption.

Everyday, dreary pictures of old men and women who are trying to get their pensions assault our eyes. This has been going on for years and there is no meaningful step being taken to address the situation.

Pensioners bear the burden of having to prove their identify and the fact that they worked in any governments department for their pensions to be approved. They are asked to bring their ailing limps, in their old age to long queues that still fail to pay their entitlements. The pay is so small to get them out of the penury from the worsening economic conditions of the country.

Some have died on the queues. Some have had accidents on their way to the venues of the verifications. Some pensioners are ill, in hospitals and cannot get to the places where their identities should be verified.

What happens to those people? How is a country that has been on for 50 years unable to identify its people and pay their entitlements in a more decent manner?

Four years ago, the Federal Government took the mode of payment to the pensioners to a more ridiculous level. Pictures of pensioners being paid their peanuts were showed on national television. The pensioners were supposed to be smiling in appreciation, some genuflected, and comments were taken from them praising government for its magnanimity.

Things have worsened. Payments are poor and irregular. Pensioners are going through more misery to access their entitlements. Those in government have ensconced themselves from the challenges that pensioners have faced. Nothing is being done to improve their welfare.

Governments’ refusal to maintain proper record of their affairs – all the noise about computerisation aside – has ensured that the confusion and misery of pensioners continue. There is no change in sight.

As the years roll by and more people join the pension queue, the problem increases and the solutions seem more impossible.

A line in our national anthem says: “The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain”. The treatment that we give pensioners negates this. There are other matters arising from this.

Some theorists claim that the treatment pensioners get could be responsible for the rising incidences of corruption. People, who have access to funds, whether in the public or private sector, are dipping their hands into resources that would have been for common use to prepare for their retirements. In other words, they are paying themselves their pension.

Governments have to resolve the issues of pensions quickly. Electronic registration of pensioners could help resolve the matter. It is inhuman for these elderly people to be dragged to venues to identify themselves, some on monthly basis. The Federal Government’s initiative under which pensioners should be paid directly into their bank accounts could hopefully assist in identifying pensioners without putting them through dehumanising hassles.

The primitive treatment of pensioners is cruel and imposes so much pain on weak, poor, elderly citizens. Governments must stop the cruelty– they will, if they see this as a problem.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.