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OPINION

What North-East Pensioners Need From Governors-elect

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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 have been in evolution right from the colonial era have 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 states governments introduced pensions reform in 2004. Following our sufferings in the north eastern states that was 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  to the public attention.

Firstly, the federal government approved the 35-year rule as the condition for retirement with effect from 1st September, 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(5) years, while pension is ten(10) years with effect from 1st June, 1992. Before then,  the qualifying years for gratuity and pension was 10 and 15 years respectively, whoever retires voluntarily, cannot draw pension until such a person attains the age of forty five (45).

Section 3(1) and (2) of the pensions act No. 102 of the 1979 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; which ever comes earlier.

On 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. While 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.

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

Plight Of Pensioners In North Eastern States

In Adamawa state,  pensioners are subjected to  immense hardship from 1999 to date. Also,  minimum pension was not reviewed since 2000, which was contrary to the provisions of the  1999 constitution (as amended).

Regrettably, minimum pension is N4,500 in Adamawa state, which was not equivalent to the school fee of a nursery school pupil.

In the gratuity payment,  state pensioners that retired from the year 2012 to date were at the rough edge of the government’s tongue, while local government pensioners that retired from the year 2007 to date were still waiting for their deserved emoluments which amounted to be over 24 billion naira.

In Bauchi state, pensioners were at a smooth side of pension administration until 2013 as monthly pension was reviewed in 2007 from N4,500 to N7,900 and was also reviewed in 2013 from N7,900 to N12,719 through the giant stride of then administration especially under the influence of  Abdulkadir Ibrahim (Cikasoron Bauchi ) the then head of civil service.

But in moving downward,  the pensioners that retired from  2014 to date are on expectation till 2019 as the present government of Bauchi State has reluctantly sidelined the pensioners’ entitlements.

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 governor-elect, Sen. Bala Mohammed (KAURAN BAUCHI) has drawn the attention of the Bauchi State pensioners by outlining pensioners as his top agenda.

Pensioners’ support has played an important role in his recent resounding victory, for that,  our hope shall be graced by God’s will.

In Borno State, pension was reviewed last in May 2000, to N4,500 and  pensioners are experiencing immediate implementation in monthly pension as the state is owing it’s pensioners over N20 billion but as at 2018, only 10% out of the owed money was said paid.

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

In Taraba State, pensioners were thoroughly subjected to the hardship due to the non payment of gratuity which amount to be over N20 billion with retentive delay in implementation of the retired pensioners in to the monthly pension. Minimum pension was still at N4,500 and was last reviewed in 2000, which was contrary to the section 173(3) and 210(3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

For Yobe State, pensioners’ struggle is minimal, thanks to Gov. 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.

As the most senior citizens, pensioners are supposed to be importantly addressed. But in almost all of the North-eastern states except Yobe, pensioners are facing hardship. Therefore, it is in the interest of the North-eastern states pensioners that I wish to appeal for: Immediate inclusion of the retired pensioners in to the monthly pension payroll;  continuous upward review of pension to the deserved pensioners every five(5) years or together with any increase in workers’ salary, as stipulated by section 173(3) and section 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.

–Ahmad is the national vice president (North East Zone), Nigeria Union of Pensioners


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