Pensioners in North-east: Our plea to governors-elect

Older persons are particularly vulnerable group of people, due to decline in their physical, mental and consequently economic powers.

In Nigeria, westernisation and urbanisation is also eroding the traditional extended family kinship system which hitherto took care of the elderly. Social security system that has been in evolution right from the colonial era has not been very effective owing in the main  to administrative negligence, poor planning and poor policy implementation.

To stem this tide,  the Nigerian federal and state governments introduced pensions reform in 2004. Following our sufferings in the Northeastern states that resulted either from reluctant habit of pension departments or lack of good policy from our states to outline a blueprint for the development and welfare of our members, I will be  extremely delighted to bring the following in to the public attention:

Firstly, the federal government approved the 35 years rule as the condition for retirement with effect from September 1, 1999. Accordingly, every officer who attained the age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, which ever came earlier, will be asked to retire.

Secondly, the qualifying service for gratuity is now five years, while pension is 10 years with effect from June 1, 1992. Before then,  the qualifying years for gratuity and pension were10 and 15 years, respectively, who retires voluntarily, cannot draw pension until he attains the age of 45 years.

Section 3(1) and (2) of the Pensions Act No. 102 of1979 stipulates the circumstances under which pension and gratuity may be granted as follows: on voluntary retirement or withdrawal after qualifying years of service,  statutory retirement on attaining the statutory age of 60 years or maximum years of service; whichever comes earlier.

There is also compulsory retirement for the purpose of facilitating improvements in the organisation or the officer’s department or the ministry so that greater efficiency or economy may be effected. It is also on the advice of properly constituted medical board certifying that the officer is no longer mentally or physically capable of carrying out the functions of his office.

Other conditions include total or permanent disability while in office and on abolition of office under section 7 of the Pensions Act No. 102 of 1979.

There is a death benefit payable to the survivors of a retiree who dies before earning his pensions for five years. An officer who qualifies for pension should earn his pensions until he dies. But in a case whereby a pensioner dies before he earns his pensions for five years, then his survivors will be entitled to the balancing sum of his pension within the guaranteed five years period.

Aside that, there are provisions in the constitution that necessitate upward review of pension to each pensioner.

Sections 173(3) and 210(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) stipulate that “pension must be reviewed every five years or together with any increase in workers’ wages.’’ But unfortunately many states do not review pensions thereby making retirees live in misery despite the selfless service they rendered to the nation when they were younger.

Plight of pensioners in North-eastern states

Adamawa state:

Adamawa state pensioners were subjected to  immense dumping and hardship ranging from the democratic state government of 1999 to the present government of this day,  minimum pension was not reviewed since the year 2000, which is contrary to the above cited provisions of the  1999 Constitution (as amended).

Regrettably, minimum pension is up to now N4,500 in Adamawa state, which is not equivalent to the school fees of a nursery school pupil. Pensioners in Adamawa nowadays are experiencing reluctant delay in implementation of their monthly pension.

On the gratuity payment, state pensioners that retired from the year 2012 to date are at the rough edge of the government’s tongue, while local government pensioners that retired from the year 2007 to date are still waiting for their deserved emoluments which amounted to over N24 billion.

Bauchi state:

Bauchi state pensioners were at a smooth side of pension administration until 2013. Monthly pension was reviewed in 2007 from N4,500 to N7,900, and was also reviewed in 2013 from N7,900 to N12, 719. The giant stride of the then administration, especially under the influence of the one “Alh. Abdulkadir Ibrahim (Cikasoron Bauchi) the then head of civil service, had tremendously increased the pensioners’ well being. Pensioners from both local governments and state have been paid forthwith.

But in moving downward,  the pensioners that retired from 2014 to date are on expectation till 2019. The present government of Bauchi state has reluctantly sidelined the pensioners’ entitlements. This hinders our aim to continue to put pressure on government, but out of the total amount of over N26 billion, only 7.4% was later approved to be released.

The incumbent governor has lost huge amount of votes which resulted to the loss of his seat as a result of his denial to instantly clear workers’ and pensioners’ entitlements.

More so, the today’s governor-elect of Bauchi state, Sen. Bala Mohammed (Kauran Bauchi), has drawn the attention of the Bauchi state pensioners by outlining and orienting pensioners’ prayers as his topmost agenda within his 100 days in office. Surely,  pensioners’ support has played an important role in his recent resounding victory, for that, our hope shall be graced by God’s will.

Borno state:

Pension was lastly reviewed in Borno Since May 2000, to N4,500, pensioners are experiencing immediate implementation in monthly pension. Borno state is owing its pensioners the total of over N20 billion, until 2018 which only 10% out of the owed money was said be paid.

Gombe state:

Gombe state government is owing its pensioners over N12 billion with delay in implementation of monthly pensions to the retired pensioners in the local governments. Monthly pension was last upwardly reviewed in 2009 from N4,500 to N9000.

Taraba state:

Taraba state pensioners were thoroughly subjected to the hardship due to the non payment of gratuity which amounts to over N20 billion with retentive delay in implementation of the retired pensioners in of the monthly pension. Minimum pension was still at N4,500 and was last reviewed since year 2000, which is contrary to Sections 173(3) and 210(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Yobe state:

Pensioners’ suffering in Yobe state was said to be averagely laid to rest,  a good and bright thanks to Governor Ibrahim Geidam for clearing all the outstanding gratuities in Yobe state, leaving our pensioners with utmost peace of mind and prosperous living.  “Pensioners’ friendly governor,” he was called.

Oou demands, request, pleas and prayers to governors-elect

As the most senior citizens, pensioners are supposed to be concurrently determined and importantly addressed. Almost all the Northeastern states except Yobe are artificially injected with poverty syndrome. Therefore, it is in the interest of the Northeastern states pensioners that I appeal for the following: Immediate implementation of the retired pensioner into the monthly pension payroll;  ccontinuous upward review of pension to the deserved pensioners every five years or together with any increase in workers’ salary, whichever comes earlier as stipulated in Sections 173(3) and 210(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

We also demand the clearing of pensioners’ emoluments/gratuities instantaneously, implementation of N30,000 as minimum pension, as both pensioners and workers have equal needs and expenditures and go to the same market for shoping.

Ahmad is the National Vice President, Northeast Zone, Nigeria Union of Pensioners.

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