By Olasunkanmi Akoni
IT is believed that the current economic recession in Nigeria is making life unbearable to citizens as cost of living is becoming too high. The worst affected are the workers and pensioners whose only incomes are fixed.
The situation is even worsened as the Federal Government and some state governments and other organizations are not paying regularly the monthly pensions to their pensioners, with Lagos being exceptional.
Therefore, as part of his administration’s commitment and reassurance to provide adequate welfare for pensioners and senior citizens in the state, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State has earmarked the sum of N2.698 billion in the 2017 budget for the building of five elderly care centres in the state.
In another development, Ambode announced ratification of the first ever Executive Order establishing a Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy in Nigeria, just as he said the policy was designed as a catalyst for driving awareness and commitment of all stakeholders, including every member of the community towards the protection of children.
Speaking at the 2016 Senior Citizens/Pensioners Day celebration, in Ikeja, the Governor said that the centres would be built in Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry, Alimosho and Lagos Island. Ambode, represented by the deputy governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, described pensioners and senior citizens as strategic class of people who deserve to be remembered, appreciated and celebrated.
He said that as a government committed to the welfare of the people and in line with his policy of inclusive governance, it has more than passing interest in the out of service life of senior citizens, especially women, who have spent their youthful period in serving their fatherland.
According to Ambode, “Since the inception of this administration we have remained committed to our workers welfare including retirees. In addition to regular payment of salaries for those in active service, we have also prioritized payment of retirees’ benefits, especially those that have accrued over the years.”
The governor revealed that a total of N21.929 billion accrued pension rights had been paid to 5,027 retirees, beside the N1.5 billion Intervention Fund, which has been approved for the payment of outstanding gratuities and accrued pensions to local government retirees including the balance of 142 percent pension arrears. Ambode noted that the
theme of the celebration, ‘Take a stand against ageism’ was apt considering the discrimination and prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age and aging process are evident in the society.
In his address, Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions, Dr. Akintola Benson Oke, assured that the state government through the Civil Service Pensions Office and other pension offices will continue to ensure that not only do retirees get what is due to them statutorily, but will continue to empower them with socio-economic activities to make life worth living for them.
Chairman Board of Trustees Association of Lagos State Retired Heads of Service and Permanent Secretaries, ALARHOSPS, Mrs. Adefemi Taire in her goodwill message expressed confidence that if the governor was not hamstrung by constitutional or statutory limitation, has the kind of spirit to make workers and pensioners in the state smile by ensuring that they receive a living wages and pensions.
Living wages and pensions
In his address Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Lagos Council and South West, comrade Nojeem Ibrahim, commended the present administration in the state, noting that since Ambode assumed office, monthly salaries of workers and pensions were paid regularly.
Ibrahim, recalled when Ambode, who is now a pensioner, paid the first three years arrears of 142 percent accrued pension when he was the Accountant-General of the state. The chairman however, made the following requests from Ambode which include; Payment of the remaining gratuities of all affected, mostly local government, primary school teachers and parastatals, payment of benefits to Next-of-kin of affected deceased pensioners, harmonization of all pensioners in the state as they were all affected by recession and construction of a befitting office of the state council of Nigeria Union of Pensioners.