CHIEF Nkem Nwauzor, is the immediate past General Secretary of the oldest trade union in the country, the Nigeria Civil Service Union, NCSU. He retired from the union in 2008 after 28 years in the services of NCSU on account of age. In this interview with Pension and You Correspondent, Victor Ahiuma-Young, in Asaba, Delta State, his home state where now lives, he gave insight into how employees should prepare for retirement among others, how his retirement life has been.
Since your retirement, how has it been?
Well, it has been good. Shakespeare says all is well that ends well. I discovered that retirement is a different ball game entirely. It is just like starting life afresh.Â I can say it is alright, there is no problem.
What have you been doing to keep body and soul going?
I have been running around. Over the years, I have served this country through my union and this time around and luckily for me, as my people deemed fit, I was elected President-General of my town union for the 9 autonomous villages in Ilah, Delta state and that has kept me busy. Besides that, a few months ago, I have been shuttling between Asaba and Ibadan, Oyo State because my union gave me appointment as one of its sole administrators to go and resolve crisis in Oyo and Osun states with one Comrade Ade Ajayi from Ekiti.Â We have concluded that of Oyo, and we are waiting for signal from national secretariat for us to move to Osun state. So, these are the things that have kept me busy.
How long did you serve your union before retiring?
I served for 28 years in the civil service union.
Did you start and end your working life in the union?
I started my working life in the then Government Coastal Agency, Lagos, soon after the civil war in 1970. While in Government Coastal Agency, in 1974, I was elected President-General of Government Coastal Agency Workers Union. I was holding that position till 1980 when the late General Secretary of the union Chief Kalejaiye saw me as a potential to work for the union and I withdrew my services from Government Coastal Agency after 10 years and 6 months to join the Nigeria Civil Service Union in 1980. As soon as I was employed, I was deployed to go and held the union’s office in the defunct Bendel State, in Benin.
That was where I was working until late 1980s, when I gained admission to do Masters in Sociology of Labour, at the University of Warrick, England. I came back in 1992 and I was deployed to Delta state, which is my home state. In 2001, I was posted to held the union head office as Acting General Secretary in Lagos, before the union relocated its national secretariat to Abuja.
As a worker, you knew one day that your retirement would come. How did you prepare for your retirement?
My retirement did not take me unaware. I actually planned for it ahead of time despite the hard times I hard with the immediate past president of the union. As far back as February 2008, I had issued a letter for me to leave the union ahead of time, normally I was to exit in November. So, my preparation include making sure that having had a building in my home town,Â I must have a building in Asaba. When I was the secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Delta state,Â between 1992 and 2002, I got a land and I started developing it before I was posted out of the state. As God would have it, I was not lukewarm over it. I made sure I carried out the building project and before long, I concluded the building in 2007 ahead of my retirement. So, by 2007/2008, my family had already moved into the house. That is whereÂ we (my family) live today. You know in our traditional society, one has to equip oneself, by taken certain traditional titles. That I did before my retirement. That is Ogbueyi alo title in Ilah.
What about investments, any?
Well, the investment I made is in buildings and my chidren. I had to make sure I have a building in my home town, Ilah and a second building that I am living now to make sure I was not stranded in any way.
What about your entitlement, has it been paid?
To some extent, my entitlement has been paid. Part of my gratuity was given to me before I exited. But much of it has not been paid. My pension is paid as at when due. Therefore, I am not being owed any pension arrear. In fact, yesterday (Thursday May 27, 20100) I was alerted by my banker that my pension for the month of May had been paid.
During the time you were the General Secretary, what kind of pension policy did the union have?
Before my exit, in accordance with Pension reform, we made sure that the staff keyed into the contributory pension scheme and made it compulsory for every staff. From level 07 and above, we centralize the payment of the pension in the union so as to enable us deduct the contribution for the pension scheme that we were running before the advent of the Pension Reform Act, PRA in 2004.
Before the PRA that brought the contributory pension scheme, what kind of scheme was the union running?
We were running a contributory pension on our own even before the Pension Reform Act of 2004.
So, the contributory pension was not new to your union?
It was not new and it did not take us unaware.
What was the contributory ratio?
The contributory ratio was that the employees were paying 5 percent and the union was paying 5 percent. But when the reform came, we started paying 7.5 percent and the union was paying same.
What made you to retire at 28 years?
I retired in due years on the account of my age and it was voluntary. I did not wait for people to remind me. I did not belong to the class that used to go to court and swear affidavit about their ages.
From experience, if you are to advice those in service on how to prepare for retirement, what will you tell them?
First and foremost, I will advise them not to be extravagant with their pay. No matter how little, let them make some savings. I took many people by surprise when I concluded my house where I am staying in Asaba today. People should on their own plan ahead for retirement without being told, so that they would not panick when they are due for retirement. In every calling, you must make sure that your aim and objectives end at your terminal age or length of service.
When is the right time for an employee to start preparing for his or her retirement?
Well, there is no definite right time. There is no time lag. For instance as an employee, if you know in five years you will retire, you should begin to plan towards your retirement. No employee should allow himself or herself to be taking unaware in retirement either by age or length of service.