From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Some pensioners in Kafanchan, the headquarters of Jema’a local government area of Kaduna state have raised concerns over delay in payment of their monthly pension and unexplainable deductions when it eventually comes.
Pension is a critical part of the social protection programmes (aimed at reducing poverty and vulnerability of Kaduna state residents) of the Kaduna State government under Governor Nasir El-Rufai, and the scheme has been doing well in terms of budgetary performance than any other sector.
Speaking with some of these senior citizens in Kafanchan, they told this correspondent that the pension has not been coming as expected while some claimed to have been receiving theirs though with deductions they do not understand.
Yusuf Sarki, who retired treasurer from Jema’a local government, on September 1, 2010, said, “there was no problem as at that time unlike now that the month will finish, you will not see the pension until after two months. After seeing it, they would have cut it without explanation. But since last June, I have not received my pension. So, I photocopied the thumbprint and sent it to them. I was told to be patient and that they will pay it together with that of July.
“Painfully, many of my colleagues have died without getting their gratuity without talking of pension. Most of them are still waiting to get their gratuity. I think some of them are being paid their insurance. Pension administrators are trying to settle those who have worked for 35 years. But pension has been difficult. You will be asked to come and come and come over and over again. Some died in this process. I recommend the government change its attitude towards prompt payment of pension as at when due. By doing that, it will be better for us and people will not die in waiting.
”To the workers, once you are getting close to your retirement, you need to put a concrete plan in place. That time, they will be calling people to attend workshops on retirement but if you don’t pay attention to it, you will suffer in retirement. If you plan your retirement very well, there will be no problem for you – pension or no pension.
“I thank God who helped me to prepare for my retirement and I’m enjoying it now. September 1, 2022, made it 12 years in retirement which many are not lucky to witness. People have been asking me how manage and my answer has always been ‘it is God’. You see, when you plan well before retirement, you will be drawing from your previous effort in such a way that when gratuity and pension come, they will just be an added advantage and that was what I did”, he said.
The story was not the same with Mr. Peter Vincent, another retiree with the Finance Ministry, Kaduna State, as he is not sure when any of his entitlement would be paid, “I retired in 2018 and nothing has been paid yet. No pension, no gratuity. As you are seeing, I have health challenges that I have been managing since 2019.
“We were told to wait for our pension managers to settle us. We are still waiting and nothing is here yet. I registered under premium pension. I have been calling the pension managers who have been telling us that the government is yet to remit our money into our pension accounts.
“As it stands, we are not finding it easy to pay our medical bills, our children’s tuition fees and all that. So we are pleading with the state government to prioritise payment of what is due to us after putting the best of our years to work’ he appealed.
As far as Mr. Julius Bature Kezi, who retired as the Head of Education and Social Development in 2011 was concerned, the state government is owing him about five years of pension arrears, “I retired in 2011 and they started paying me pension in December 2014. That is supposed to be N73,000 per month. But they worked it in such a way that even my junior ones got between N69,000 and N73,000. But my own was cut down to N46,000 which is regular.
“For example, in 2020 October, November and December, we came to UBA here in Kafanchan to show that we are alive, thump printed. We were not paid for that three months. In 2021, we came back to the bank again – January, February and March. What did we get, COVID-19 shutdown came which of course led to house arrest a kind of. Along the line, we were forced to go for another screening at the Pension Board in Kaduna.
“As at that time, the transport fare from Kafanchan to Kaduna was N5,000 when we were not paid for six months. In these difficult times, some of my colleagues died. Is that supposed to be how to reward your senior citizens who have worked for the sustenance of the state? We have been channeling our grievances to the Kaduna state government through the local government commission. Since when they started paying in 2014, they are owing me 14 months now aside from the four years between 2011-2014. All in all, they are owing me five years and some months now. I have to resolve to farm so I can get what to eat and pay my bills while waiting for them”, he said.
Commenting, the Officer in charge of pension, Jema’a local government secretariat, Salihu Musa explained that, “this pension is now in two phases. Phase one is called defined benefits which services have ended by 2014. This defined benefit is still ongoing as those who retired in 2016 backward are still waiting for their pension.
“But the government is doing well by arranging those who retired in 2016 backward in batches. They used to send us their lists. And now we are in batch 16. So, the pensioners in this category are almost facing out. The remaining part is now the contributory pension which is still waiting for payment. The pensioners are patient and that is why I will urge the government to pay them once and for all. They have to continue to be patient because without them being captured, they cannot be paid so I recommend prompt payment’, he added.