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Govts pushing us to early graves—Pensioners

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•••says only 10 states paying benefits as and when due

By Victor Ahiuma-Young

THE worsening living conditions of the nation’s senior citizens has remained a source of worry to well meaning individuals and groups especially Organised Labour.

*A cross section of Pensioners protesting in Lagos

Every given opportunity, Labour has drawn the attention of government and other relevant authorities to the need to care for the senior citizens who spent their productive years in the service of the nation, especially by ensuring that their meager pensions are paid as and when due to lessen their pains and sufferings.

However, all these pleas, so far have fallen on deaf ears going by the complaints of the President of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Dr Abel Afolayan, at the recent celebration of Pensioners’ Day in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

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While lamenting that the Federal Government has partially been trying to address the pensioners’ plight, he, however, declared that only about 10 states had been up to date with pensioners’ benefits.

He said: “The Federal Government and by extension, the state governments, who are in full knowledge of Section 173, subsection 3 and Section 210 subsection 3 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, have always failed to comply with the provisions contained therein. The sections stipulate thus: “Pension shall be reviewed every five years or together with any increase in workers’ wages, whichever comes earlier.”

The federal and state governments have always violated these constitutional provisions. Though the Federal Government has been trying to comply partially, it has always failed woefully in the payment of arrears resulting from pension increase.

“The violations are much worse in the states. With the exemption of a few states like Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Lagos, Yobe, Plateau, Ogun, Anambra, Kebbi and Jigawa, all other states are still owing their pensioners outstanding pension arrears amounting to billions of Naira and covering many years. Imo State Government has the worst record of non-challant, cruel and dehumanizing treatment of their pensioners.

As at today, Imo State Government is owing its pensioners N56 billion. Oyo State Government is similarly owing local government and primary school pensioners billions of naira as unpaid pension arrears. The matter is already before the National Industrial Court and so no further comment is necessary.”

Backlog of arrears

Commending the Federal Government for paying pensioners monthly pensions very often but not always as and when due, Dr. Afolayan, however, noted that “there are enormous arrears of pension and gratuities owed especially as a result of the recently-concluded verification exercise for pensioners who have genuine complaints and have been captured on payrolls.

However this is not the case as far as payment of accrued rights by the Federal Government is concerned, thus making it impossible for contributory pensioners who migrated from Defined Benefit Scheme, DBS, to Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, to be paid in time. It is our humble plea that immediate steps should be taken to pay all outstanding arrears and accrued rights in no distant future.

“We call on the Federal Government to intervene in the cruel treatments being meted out to pensioners in most states.

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We humbly appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to persuade and prevail on all state governors who are slowly killing and exterminating their pensioners through long delays in pension payment, to have a rethink and be more responsive to their plight as it is utterly inhuman and ungodly to continue to be averse to their unbearably debilitating condition and treat them with disdain.

The Council of State meetings which they (state governors) are all expected to attend should provide sufficient ground for such intervention and solution to the nagging problem.

“We would like to point out humbly but firmly and sincerely that since state governors never fail to collect their monthly salaries, security votes and other fantastic and mouth-watering allowances, they have no moral justification for failing to pay their pensioners as and when due.

It is equally disgusting and inexplicable that ex-governors and their deputies who served for eight years or less are paid enormous/unimaginable severance allowances while pensioners are left to suffer endlessly. This intolerable situation does not portray us well here at home and before the international community. It must stop as it is a disgrace to us all.

“We see it as one of our main challenges, the stoppage of 5 per cent counterpart funding being paid by the Federal Government to assist in paying monthly pension of Local Government and Primary School pensioners.

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This stoppage has resulted in untold hardship for this category of pensioners. We humbly call on the Federal Government to resuscitate this funding to enable local governments have sufficient funds to pay their local government and primary school pensioners.

“ I want to passionately appeal to federal and state governments to take pensioners’ welfare, comfort and happiness through payment of their entitlements as and when due with all seriousness and commitment.

I want to reiterate my appeal in my last year’s address to make pension payable on first line charge to ensure that pensioners are paid their monthly pension before serving workers because pensioners need their monthly pay early to take care of their age-related ailments regularly and fulfill other financial commitments. This is the norm in other climes.

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