August 9, 2021

Why do state governors hate pensioners?

By Ogbonnaya Akoma

From media reports across the country, it has become glaringly obvious that a majority of state governors do wilfully and intentionally fail to pay retirees their merited monthly pensions and retirement gratuities as a result of hatred and sadistic inclinations!

It is because these governors hate and dislike pensioners and retirees in their states that they do not want to pay, not because there is no money to pay the pensioners! The governors refusal to pay the retirees in their states shows a clear disregard and crass disservice to the people. Yes, this is saying the obvious!

 Of course, if not for the display of an unwarranted act of wickedness and hatred, sadism and I-don’t-care tendencies meted to the retirees in this regard, why should a governor who receives his state’s revenue allocation from Abuja without fail and generates internal revenue in billions on monthly basis decide to shun paying his pensioners and retirees for months and years?

And, in doing so they subject these senile and vulnerable, disease-prone, aged men and women-pensioners to all manner of deprivation – in health, socio-economic activities and financial empowerment – that eventually leads to the debilitating conditions, suffering and inevitable untimely death of these pensioners across the country. Yes, the people who had suffered in one way or the other, in their prime ages, in building their country!

 The non-payment of pensions and gratuities by state governors and their governments in Nigeria has become a national embarrassment now that all well-meaning Nigerians, the National Assembly and the Federal Government of Nigeria should intervene without further delay before more pensioners die of hunger, economic and financial strangulation, and of the illnesses that plague them. 

Meanwhile, the governors continue to revel in affluence and go ahead to ‘squander’ and recklessly spend the funds that should be used in paying pensions, gratuities and salaries the way they like, and going ahead to give flimsy, frivolous and other unacceptable excuses for the non-payment, including the usual ‘there is no money’ lullaby we have heard ib initio!

With each new day, the problem of non-payment of pensions and gratuities by the state governors becomes worse, beginning from 1999 when the civilians started ruling the country in the name of democracy; when all manner of people suddenly became ‘leaders’   in our country in the name of democracy! During the military regimes in the past, retirees were duly and regularly paid their gratuities and monthly pensions as ‘senior citizens’, unlike what obtains today when we say we are in democracy and when the various state governors ‘play’ with pensioners. Nonsense!  

 Truly, the non-payment of pensions, gratuities and salaries cuts across rich states and the poor ones today in this bizarre act of wickedness and sadism; in proof of the fact the governors who choose to pay do so; while those who choose not to pay do so too! While some ‘poor’ states duly pay their workers and pensioners salaries, pensions and gratuities, many of the ‘rich’ ones don’t pay pensions, gratuities and salaries!

For example, while Ebonyi State, without even one oil well, pays the pensioners duly and regularly without owing them, Rivers State, with multiple financial resources available to it internally and the huge amounts of allocated revenue every month from Abuja, still owes pensions and gratuities; again, Anambra State does not owe, even though the state is non-oil producing! In fact, the immediate-past governor of that state, Peter Obi, had cleared all arrears of pension and gratuity before he left office.

But in Abia State, one of the past governors described the pensioners in his state then as ‘deadwood,’ and had kick-started the era of owing pensions and gratuities in the state before he left office even as surplus funds accrued to the state then! Imo pensioners are today gnashing their teeth and wailing as they have been pauperised the more as the government has refused to pay them their pension even as it is an oil-producing state.      

 Yes, it is because of non-payment of pensions and gratuities by the state governors that pensioners die untimely today across the country – on daily basis. This is regrettable in all ramifications. In many states today, pensioners are owed arrears in years and months, and why this should be is worrisome; why should somebody who had laboured in service to his country and has become weak and senile now in retirement, be forgotten, shoved aside and denied his monthly pension and retirement gratuity – be subjected to hardship by his state governor through non-payment of his entitlements? Why should this be?

 Really, it is most regrettable that many governors fail to pay their pensioners. The non-payment of pensions, contrary to what many of these governors make people to believe, is not occasioned by lack of money to do so, but the will. Speaking on the floor of the Nigerian Senate some time in the past, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria said that the way and manner many of the governors behave with regard to the finances that accrue to their states, shows they are either reckless in the use of their revenues or that they are covetous, greedy or as insatiable as Oliver Twist; or are settling their godfathers!

This assertive declaration is obviously true as we have come to discover that many of the governors of the obviously rich states also owe pensions and gratuities as already highlighted! Many of the governors just do not want to pay their pensioners; they prefer the death of such pensioners so that they can go ahead to pocket such pensioners’ pension funds; without heeding God’s word that ‘a labourer is worthy of his wages!’

 Apart from not paying monthly pension regularly and gratuities at all, some state governments have also gone ahead to reduce the amount of the money that is paid to pensioners every month!  This means that in some states, their governments have reduced the amount their pensioners should earn on monthly basis instead of increasing such amounts to meet today’s socio-economic and inflationary realities!

One of such states. In one of these states, the amounts some pensioners were earning as determined by the state government when such pensioners retired from its service, were reduced in May 2020 in the first instance; further reduced in March 2021, and again reduced in April this year without letting the affected pensioners know why their pension has been reduced three times in less than two years.

  It is really regrettable and awfully bad that many state governors have chosen to hate and suffer their pensioners through indebtedness while collecting monthly allocations from Abuja without fail.   Is this not an act of man’s inhumanity to man?

*Akoma, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Trans-Amadi Layout, Port Harcourt, Rivers State