“There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men.”—Ludwig von Mises, Australian-American economist.
“It takes little courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential…but it takes great courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm.”—President Barack Obama, former President of the United States.
Based on the above quotes, which highlight the enigma masses face in less developed societies, I am more convinced that it is our moral duty to provide empowerment and voice to the voiceless in every opportunity we have. I’m compelled to do another story on nonpayment of pension benefits after realizing that it is a burning issue on people’s mind. Seemingly, the pension issue touches virtually every family in Nigeria. There are recurring personal horror stories in almost every family in Nigeria concerning the adverse effects of nonpayment of pension benefits.
Indeed, while workers in the United States eagerly look forward to retirement with the assurance that their monthly retirement income will always be there throughout their life, the same may not be true in some countries, particularly in the less developed countries where culture of corruption has permeated the fabric of the society. In such corrupt countries, pension funds have become easy fodder for embezzlement.
But the fear of retiring with the accompanying of uncertainties of income and perhaps life, is real. The abject poverty associated with retirement is strongly reverberating among the retirees in Nigeria. Yes, it is deeply unnerving that retirement after working in Nigeria is like throwing someone overboard to swim or sink. And for the most part, the retirees sink in poverty and death. It is rather a national disgrace that retirement is like sentencing retirees for life imprisonment in abject poverty for their eventual death without dignity.
Unfortunately, the pension problems are not limited to the federal government. States are having their own share of the ugly nonpayment problems of pension benefits. In a communication with a lady from Delta State whose name is withheld for fear of retribution, she spoke for the pensioners whose agonies are visible and their hopelessness glaringly evident. She despondently alarmed, “Nigerian government has nothing to write home about both at federal, state and local levels as far as pension is concern. Imagine in Delta State, there is this pension scheme that deduct from people’s salary at source, all in the name of saving it for civil servants; and promised to be given after retirement, but they never give to any one at the end. In fact, those of you in the Diaspora should continue to agitate for us through media like THE SUN and other media outlets.”
Comrade Nnaemeka Charles Iwuanyanwu, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) in Ehime-Mbano, Imo State described a similar plight in his state. He said, “The situation was manageable before 2015 in Imo State; from the beginning part of 2015 when the state government deliberately stopped paying us pensions and gratuities, frankly speaking from then up till this time am writing, the Imo pensioners are suffering untold hardship as a result of nonpayment of their pensions and gratuities.” “It is on record that the Imo State Government accumulated our pensions rights and as at present the pensioners of Imo State are owed many months and years of pensions and gratuities,” Comrade Nnaemeka Charles Iwuanyanwu continued.
Comrade Iwuanyanwu stated, “To put the records straight, between January 2015 till date, the government paid some pensioners three months in November 2015 based on 100%, but from November 2015 to August 2016 the pensioners were paid in August 2016 pensions based on 70%.” Iwuanyanwu expressed with disappointment, “The last payment was the controversial 40% pensions arrears the Imo State government imposed on Imo state pensioners and the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Imo State Chapter is now in court to get the government pay us the backlog of arrears of pensions based on 100%, hoping that the law court being the last hope of the oppressed, will optimistically dispense justice.”
“Some pensioners who retired many years back still receive paltry sum owing to lack of harmonization of their pensions in line with the minimum wage,” Comrade Nnaemeka Charles Iwuanyanwu stated with agony.
In any case, considering that there is no dearth of horror stories about the predicament of pensioners in Nigeria, the dilatory actions by both the state and federal governments to ensure that retirees are paid accurately and regularly amount to dereliction of responsibility.
It is inhumane! Therefore, the alarming and perennial danger the pensioners are facing literally eclipsed any seeming flak of corruption as the reason for the nonpayment of pension benefits. Thus, the federal government, as well as the state governments, should that funds are adequately available for the payment of pension benefits.
It is understood that the federal government’s statutory pension obligation of about N174 billion under the old pension scheme of defined benefit is not being met. Similarly, the federal government is currently owing N285 billion under the new Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
It is reported that this scheme under National Pension Commission’s regulatory strides has not recorded any corruption because of the new law that established it, which separates the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) from the Pension Fund Custodians (PFC). It appears that the only issue is for the federal government to meet its own obligations to remedy the nonpayment of pension benefits.
The administration of pension funds should be devoid of politics and tribal inclinations. It will be ideal if the pension scheme is codified in the constitution to avoid future confounding situations, as well as ensuring that every administration obeys the pension laws. Also, the government, at all levels, should ensure that the issue of ghost pensioners is curbed permanently.