WITH the possible exception of Lagos, Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom states where the issue of pension is receiving some measure of attention, pensioners across the country have continued to lament non-payment of their entitlements by their respective state governments.
Indeed, reports have it that many states are not only owing their pensioners in excess of 20 months’ arrears, they have been demonstrating little or no willingness to pay. Some state governments introduced measures to compel pensioners to forfeit percentages of their entitlements, which they ascribed to paucity of funds.
It is lamentable that in spite of the enactment of the Pension Reforms Act of 2004, through which the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) was replaced with the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) to enhance pension payment, no significant improvement has been recorded in the management of pensions in Nigeria till date. The crisis bedeviling the various pension schemes over the years is further complicated by the serial failure of both Federal and State Governments to remit counterpart deductions to the Pension Fund Administrators, (PFAs), as required by the Pension Reforms Act. The news media are awash with reports on the plights of pensioners. There are recurring incidents of our senior citizens collapsing and even giving up the ghost while waiting on long verification queues towards collection of their entitlements .
This unfortunate scenario has fuelled frequent complaints and protests by pensioners across the country. The National Union of Pensioners recently asked the Federal Government to pay the 18 months arrears of the 33 per cent pension increase owed its members since the last review in 2010. This was in reaction to the payment of 24 months out of the total 42 months owed them.
The common refrain of many state governments for failing to meet their pension payment obligation is lack of funds arising from the prevailing economic recession. There is however good news with the recent refund of $4 billion (N522.74 billion) to Nigeria by the Paris Club for excess deductions on Nigeria’s foreign debts. States cannot claim to be cash-strapped after receiving significant amounts as their share of the refund. President Muhammadu Buhari made a case that states use at least 25 per cent of the money received to offset outstanding workers’ entitlements, including that of pensioners.
We align with this suggestion and urge that more efforts should be made by state governments to alleviate the sufferings of pensioners because they are very vulnerable. Governors of various states should heed the President’s advise and do the needful. We commend those who have complied and urge others to follow the good example. The pensioners deserve their entitlements.