Recent media report to the effect that the delay in the implementation of the new national minimum pension worries pensioners should jolt the relevant authorities, particularly President Muhammadu Buhari, to act swiftly to remedy the undesirable and despicable situation.
In a communiqué at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja last week, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) resolved to consciously await President Buhari’s approval on a new minimum pension, in line with the constitution and laws on national minimum wage and pension.
The president had in April 2019 signed the new national minimum wage into law, and according to the extant law, there should and must be a consequential adjustment and increase also in the national minimum pension, in relation to the increase in the minimum wage.
Efforts have been made severally by the NUP to get the new minimum pension approved and get its implementation on the way, since April 2019. The NUP President, Dr Abel Afolayan, said the activities of the leadership of the union in the last one year are geared towards achieving these dreams, even as he highlighted the plights of the elderly citizens as a result of poor treatment by government at all levels.
Dr Afolayan stated that the report on the minimum pension was completed and already submitted to President Buhari for his final approval, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha. Invariably, the NUP president said, as a son looks to his father, the eyes and hope of Nigerian pensioners are unto President Buhari, to, in days, approve the minimum pension, and ensure its immediate implementation at both federal and state levels.
Also, he believes, as assured by President Buhari, that the implementation of the minimum pension would be effective from April 2019, just as the new minimum wage. “You will recall that I reported our efforts and visited the Salaries, Income and Wages Commission on the minimum wage and salary increment enjoyed by workers last year. I am glad to inform you that the commission set up a tripartite committee with NUP and the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) as members.
“The committee met severally, and I am glad to report to you today that the committee’s report has been accepted by the Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the commission has already forwarded the report through the secretary to the government of the federation to Mr President for his approval.”
Afolayan added: “This procedure may seem cumbersome to most of our members who wanted it done immediately. However, I must emphasise that this is the procedure in salary/pension review. Similarly, we have been assured that immediately Mr President gives his approval, the implementation of the increment shall be effective from April 2019, same as for the workers. Mr President himself has given us that assurance.”
He pointed out that the elderly citizens were able to weather the storm of the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, despite their neglect by the governments, adding, however, that NUP did not lose any member to the virus, but regrettably, to the “actions and inactions” of the governments.
The NUP president said: “I am happy to report to you that in the face of all these problems, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) did not lose any member to the much-dreaded Covid-19.
May I clearly state this today, that it is not coronavirus or any other virus that is killing pensioners, elderly people and senior citizens generally, it is the government’s actions and inactions that are sending them to their early graves.”
So, in a communiqué issued at the end of the NEC meeting, the pensioners frowned on the nonchalance of the federal government at releasing the circular on pension increase in tandem with the recent wage increase of workers that was carried out in April, 2019. To this end, the union urged the federal government to issue the circular on the pension increase with immediate effect.
The meeting also emphasised that the poor pension of pensioners had made their participation in the National Health Insurance Scheme a near impossibility. At the state level, the union said the majority of the pensioners at the state levels, in all the states of the federation, are living in penury, as many of them still earn less than N10,000 per month. Specifically, the union cited Imo and Rivers states as requiring very urgent attention on the issue of pension and gratuity payment.
The union, however, commended President Buhari over his disposition to pensioners, particularly, the prompt payment of pensions of federal pensioners. The meeting also commended the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Dr Mrs Chioma Ejikeme, for her mature handling of pension matters; and praised the cordial relationship between PENCOM and the union.
Flowing from the pitiable conditions of pensioners in the country amidst the skyrocketing prices of goods and services we urge President Buhari to, as a matter of utmost national importance, approve the new national minimum pension with retrospective effect from April 2019 when the national minimum wage commenced. The poor treatment of pensioners is a key factor fueling corruption in the country and must be addressed if the fight against corruption is to make any headway.