THINGS are getting out of hand with our public accounting system. We are unwilling to do a thing about it because the money involved is the public’s, and where it is for pensions, the expectation could be that pensioners, should have helped themselves to public funds in service.
Millions of pensioners who this laxity imperils are of little concern to the authorities. What can possibly explain the disappearance – a euphemism the Senate uses for stealing – of N195 billion of pension funds? How could this have happened over five years during which we trumpeted accountability and transparency to dazzling dins?
Senators do not queue for pensions. They do not know how it feels to have put in many years of poorly rewarded service, only to face a dimmed future in old age. Many of those who are perishing on pension queues did their duty to Nigeria faithfully.
While they were at it, government was deducting a portion of their poor salaries as pension. They are not paid. Some die on the queues, others finished their service only to discover they were not on the pension list. In all cases the situations are irredeemable or the pensioner at great costs (bribes included) to his emotions and life is put on the list. Finally, the money for the pensions is missing.
The matter is treated as an ordinary issue. Old men and women, ill, blind, bedridden, some borne to the venues of cumbersome verifications, face further destitution, poverty and indignities – their offences being that they worked for governments.
As the Senate hears the latest woes that have befallen federal pension funds, the same depressing stories are reverberating through the state and local government services. However, as the matter is treated as cold statistics, without any concerns about the lost lives, and millions more who are losing their confidence in the ability of governments to protect them, the thieves keep plundering the country and suggesting crime as option to others.
The utter mismanagement of pension funds holds grievous consequences for the country beyond the loss of life and the subjugation of pensioners to perils of destitution at their old age. Nobody seems to care about how those still in service perceive their forfeited future. Given a chance, would they not loot the treasures to prepare for their forlorn retirement?
Without those who are stealing the pension funds, and other frauds that the National Assembly keeps discussing as if the law does not provide for prosecution, corruption, looting of public resources would only increase.
The pension funds would be a good take off point to emphatically punish the endemic corruption in governments. Platitudes cannot punish corruption.