By Kayode Ajetumobi
As someone who retired in 1982 from the Federal Ministry of Defence, I had pursued my retirement benefits to no avail. My kids, very successful in life give me more than what I need but many a times, I feel the pension is my right, so why must I allow someone to steal it?
A day I will never forget, 13th April, I got an alert on my phone. I was credited with N4.3 million from the pension office. I thought it was 419 gimmicks. I Went to the bank where they confirmed same. I reluctantly withdrew N300, 000:00. The bank paid the amount. Three days later, I went to Abuja by air (from Lagos) which would have been impossible and unimaginable. At the pension office, I took my papers pretending as if I don’t know what was going on.
A lady working at the Computer Centre of the Pension Reform Task Force politely explained to me how the payment was computed over the years and that “you have been paid up to date. Please check your account with your bank. 23,000 persons have so far been captured in like manners,” she said.
I wanted to see the Chairman, Abdulrasheed Maina, but was told he was very busy. I asked for his phone number, I was reluctantly given. As I called, he picked it, I introduced myself and right there, he called me back on my line.
When I told him that I was in his premises, he said they should fetch me. That day, I was praying for him and shedding tears of joy. He gave me my rights while still alive. May God bless him and all those who made us, retirees, to laugh and be happy.
When I asked questions, I was told that in the last 44 years, thousands of retirees have suffered untold hardship (I am one of them) and some of them died without getting pensions for the services they rendered to the nation (so many that I know).
Successive regimes had not attempted to reform the pension system until Jonathan Goodluck. If this is the only thing Jonathan has done, is it not worth it?
Did Jonathan’s regime not dealt with the pension problems once and for all? I have read in the papers that Maina’s people have recovered over N181 billion. Maina told me on my visit that day that they discovered about 71, 000 ghost pensioners from Head of Service Pension Office.
So when he was talking of E-Pension Management System, it made sense to me because that was how I got paid. He even said that, “today, nobody can steal one Naira in the new pension scheme without detection.”
If what we have read in the papers is it, for the current prosecution of the alleged persons on trial, it would have taken an unusual, dogged determination and patriotism to have cracked down on the fraudulent and notorious pension cartel and get to the root of the pension scam.
Reading how the pension mafia recruited under-aged people, primary school teachers and even jobless people to pay into their accounts millions of Naira daily is a sad commentary. The conduits get a paltry 10% of such millions and return the balance to the evil (did you say civil?) servants.
To read that over 73,000 bank accounts were operated by these cartels shows that the banks were culprits who also aided and abetted the commission of the crimes. So, why are the banks not arrested and prosecuted too?
Yet, the House of Representatives went round and saw what we are seeing. The Senate Committee is seeing from the eyes of the corrupt persons standing trial. Corruption is fighting the truth.
A colleague in Jos who worked with the Federal Ministry of Works got N3.3m in arrears. His case was sorted out with the electronic pension system within 24 hours. What took 24 hours some not too long years ago will take you to bribe with what is not enough and it can take decades to be processed, if you are lucky. Yet, you may not get the right pay you are entitled to.
Permit me to thank President Jonathan. For me and pensioners in Nigeria of today, anyone that will stop the joy we are getting now would have the wrath of God. We thank God that our labour is enjoyed now that we are alive. The house I could not build with my sweat when I worked for 36 years I have built less than one year. I eat well and get my drugs with my own money.
God will bless those who make us enjoy our retirement and curse those who want to stand in our ways. Please tell Jonathan Goodluck that he must conclude this good job he has started. Tell the Senate, God will judge the truth and House of Representatives, their joy will be permanent.
Ajetumobi lives in Ibadan, Oyo State.