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EDITORIAL: The Plight Of Pensioners In Nigeria



Last week, pensioners in Imo gave the state government a seven-day ultimatum to pay up their four months pension arrears or risk invasion of the Government House. According to reports the pensioners have not been paid since February this year. Already, about 49 of the pensioners in the state have died while awaiting payment of their pensions.

The case of Imo is just one out of the many neglect retired state civil servants suffer in the hands of their state governments. To many of the states, the retirees are extra burden on the government.

One governor in one of the states in the South East, more than a decade ago, was quoted as saying that it was better for him to take care of current workers in his state than to devote state resources to pay gratuities to those who were already retired from service.

It is this kind of attitude that is responsible for the failure of most state governments to meet the pension expectation of retirees with the consequence of shattering the plans of many as well as inducing economic trauma which, in some cases, have led to fatalities. Indeed, many senior citizens with no other source of earning a living after service had collapsed and died while on queues waiting for their pensions.

It was in a bid to move beyond this tragic situation that the Pension Reforms Act of 2004 was enacted. The contributory pension scheme (CPS), as it was named, was designed to address the failure of the old scheme, Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS).

In the new scheme, both the government and the workers themselves are to save a given amount of their earnings toward creating an accumulated funds reserve which the workers can fall back on after retirement.

However, a recent report by the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) reveals that many states in the country are yet to fully implement the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS). In fact, PENCOM said only six states, Kaduna, Anambra, Ekiti, Ondo, Edo and Delta, out of the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, have fully implemented the scheme with regular and up-to-date remittance of pension contributions.

Many of the state governments that claim to have adopted the new pension scheme have failed woefully in remitting deducted sums from workers’ salaries to the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs). The result is that neither government contribution nor workers’ deducted sums are credited to the accounts of the workers with the PFAs.

This malaise is also prevalent in the private sector where many companies do not remit their counterpart deductions as well as the deductions from their workers to the PFAs as required by the Pension Act. Meanwhile, the PENCOM law does not empower the commission to enforce the implementation on the states.

It is not uncommon to see images of emaciated senior citizens collapsing, after waiting endlessly in long queues under the hot sun for verification and payment of pension entitlements.

This is a gross abuse of the dignity of aged men and women who served their country for most of their lives. Nigeria has a reputation of not having any form of social security for its elderly, meaning that those who do not have children that are capable of taking care of them at old age are doomed.

One major attraction in public service, despite its poor remuneration package, is the benefit of receiving pension after retirement. But over the years, such prospect has become problematic and uncertain in Nigeria.

Does that not explain the endemic corruption in the civil service? Since the system will not provide for them in their old age, civil servants have resorted to self-help while they are still in active service.

As a newspaper, we urge the federal and state governments to keep faith with their obligations to pensioners. We also call on PENCOM to apply stricter measures in enforcing compliance with the provisions of the Pension Reform Act by the PFAs.

The National Assembly should take another look at the Act setting up PENCOM with a view to empowering the commission to enforce compliance with the Pension Reform Act either in the states or the private sector.