Magnus Eze, Enugu
About 500 inspectors of prisons who had served meritoriously and retired are presently languishing across the country. These people referred to as ‘Aggrieved Stagnated Inspectors of Prisons of Nigeria’ said that they laboured for their fatherland, most of them for 35 years, but were literally used and abandoned.
The group staged a peaceful march at the premises of Prisons Club, Enugu recently, where those of them around Enugu meet every Thursday to pray, discuss their plight and how to address the welfare of members.
Before this period, an Enugu-based human rights centre had in a petition to the Comptroller General of Prison on their behalf said that they served as officers of the Nigeria Prison Service, but for reasons they cannot understand and explain, remained in the rank of Inspectors of Prison for 18 years; from 1995 to 2013. Painfully, when they were eventually promoted to senior inspectors with effect from January 2013, they were not paid the accrued benefits for 26 months.
The petition dated March 21, 2019 and signed by Dr. Godstime Okafor which was copied to the Minister of Interior, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, as well as the Director General, Integrated Payrolls and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) office, said that each of the retired inspectors was owed at least N1.4million arrears of promotion allowance.
Threatening to commence legal action against the authorities if after 30 days, the promotion arrears were not paid, the petition said that “it is unfortunate to state that in spite of the delayed promotion, which they ought to be compensated for, they were still not paid their promotion allowance from 1st January 2013 to March, 2015, which is a total of 26 months.”
Spokesman of the aggrieved retired inspectors, Comrade Linus Aninze said that in the history of civil service in the country, none had been treated like them. “We had passed through many ordeals in the hands of the prison authorities during our years of service. After we had been promoted from long awaited promotion from 1995-2013, some of us were placed in March 2015, while others were not placed until many of us died and some retired without tasting fruit of our labour and good services which we offered to our fatherland for good 18 years and above without promotion,” he said.
One of the very pathetic cases was that of one Christian Mba whose long-awaited promotion could not come before he developed sickness and died along the line. However, when the promotion eventually came, the arrears were also denied his family.
Apart from those who died while waiting for their entitlements, Aninze said that several of them suffer one ailment or the other, but cannot afford their drugs just as the education of their children had suffered.
He also noted that many of them are still homeless because they could not even build huts in and out of service because of what they passed through.
Several of them after retirement were still loitering around the barracks because they could not build their own houses.
Sunday Sun gathered that some retired officers who were still living in the barracks in Enugu, especially those from Benue, Kogi and other states, were recently issued eviction notice.
“Many of us would have retired with rank of CSP if promptly promoted, but they retired us with level 08 (inspector cadre). We the remaining staff, with low income through our contributed money to the pension managers suffer hunger; many of us are living on drugs, managing our lives without money for proper treatment while our money which supposed to add to our lives is sat upon and delayed in payment till date, after all we had passed through”, Aninze bemoaned.
He said that the prison authorities through a circular asked them in 2018 to submit evidences of the promotion, which according to him, many of them complied with, but unfortunately, nothing has come out of that exercise.
Some of the affected retirees narrated their ordeals to our correspondent. One of them, Anthony Nnajiofor who joined the service in January 1983 and retired in January 2018 as Senior Inspector of Prisons (SIP) said: “I was promoted from Inspector, level 7 to SIP level 8 and wasn’t paid my promotion arrears for 26 months.”
Nnajiofor, a father of five, whose cursory computation showed that he is being owed not less than N1.4 million said that his wife died in 2015 due to lack of money.
Sunday Sun learnt that Nnajiofor was saved from suicide by the intervention of Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka who cleared the accumulated hospital bills after the death of his wife.
Another retired officer, Mrs Evelyn Eneh, 60, a widow and mother of seven who hails from Obinagu Udi in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State said that it has been very hard for her and her family to survive.
“I find myself always borrowing while still in service and painfully, at the end of the day, I won’t be able to pay back. My husband died in 2011 and the whole burden has been on me, training the children. Even the retirement benefit was nothing to write home about as I was given a meagre N1.3 million,” she lamented.
For Stephen Zeigbo, 60, from Iwollo in Ezeagu Local Government Area, also of Enugu State, he was promoted to senior inspector in January 2013, but was not placed till February 2015 when he was retired. “So, people call me SIP, but I never enjoyed it for one day,” he said.
The aggrieved retired inspectors, therefore, appealed to the relevant authorities to look into their plight and prevail on the Nigeria Prison Service to pay them their deserved arrears of N1.4 million each without further delay.
Repeated attempts to get official reaction from the service was not possible as the Public Relations Officer, Francis Enobore did not pick calls put across to his phone. At the Enugu command, an officer who would not want his name mentioned said that it was only the headquarters in Abuja that could address the issue.