The slogan of the Nigeria Union of Pensioner (NUP), the umbrella body of pensioners across the country, is “rest is sweet after labour”. But for most of these senior citizens, this is far from the reality. For so many of them, there is indeed nothing to show they are resting after so many years of service to their father land.
Their sufferings, long after retirement is far from over. Not many will imagine that some pensioners still earn as little as N10, 000 as monthly entitlement. Worst still, is the non-payment of the back-log of arrears of retirement benefits owed pensioners by various governments all over the country.
Some of these issues were the major highlights as the senior citizens celebrated this year’s pension day.
Despite several efforts put in place by government to ameliorate the sufferings of pensioners, the tales from the retirees showed much still needs to be done.
“It is regrettable that up till now the federal government and worse still, some State Governments are owing pensioners several months and in some cases, years of arrears of pension and unpaid gratuity and death benefits due to families of deceased pensioners. We therefore appeal to the Federal government to direct the appropriate relevant government agencies charged with the responsibility to pay these entitlements to do so without further delay,” NUP national president, Dr Abel Afolayan said at this year’s celebration.
To the pensioners, there are several issues that needs to be addressed urgently if they are to enjoy the latter part of their lives.
Afolayan continued, “This brings us to the important issue of outstanding 33% arrears of pension resulting from increase in workers wages.
It is important to explain here that there was a fundamental error in the calculations and computations of the increases due to pensioners.
Whereas, deductions of a total of 20% representing tax, housing and health schemes were deducted from workers wages, these deductions were not, in any way, applicable to our members. We do not pay tax as pension is tax free, we are not subjected to Contributory Pension payment, neither are we part of National Housing and/or Health payment scheme. Therefore our rightful entitlement should be 53.4%. But even as at now the 33% approved for our members are in arrears by about 42 months. We would like to implore the Buhari administration to help us return this pension increase to 53.4% and pay the total outstanding arrears of the increase and in fact all arrears of pension and unpaid gratuity. It is rather unfortunate and disappointing that after several efforts by the National Headquarters to ensure the payment of this arrears, we were assured by top government officials of the Jonathan led administration that this payment would be captured in the 2015 budget. But to our greatest surprise, when the 2015 appropriation act was approved, the payment of these arrears was not included. In protest, we wrote to the Head of Service of the Federation, Director General of Budget, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance and the Director General PTAD with a view to rectifying the oppressive omission from the budget.
“We even went extra mile to suggest to the Federal government for a supplementary budget to accommodate the payment but to no avail as we were informed by the Federal government through PTAD that these arrears could not be cleared until the conclusion of the on-going biometric verification exercise by PTAD in order to ascertain the cost implications of paying the arrears to genuine pensioners.”
Their sentiments was also shared by both the minister of Labour and Employment and chairman senate committee on establishment of public matters, both of whom assured the pensioners of their support in the struggle for improved welfare.
Speaking at the 2015 pensioners Day, Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of labour and employment said that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to the welfare of pensioners and their entitlement.
Ngige who was represented by Mrs Hauwa Abubakar, Assistant Chief Labour in the ministry said that government would from 2016 implement programmes that would positively affect the lives of vulnerable citizens in the country.
“My ministry will work with the union to see how best to assist them in ensuring that their plights are reduced to the barest minimum,’’ he said.
Also, Sen. Emmanuel Paulker, Chairman Senate Committee on Establishment of Public Matter said that the National Assembly was aware of the challenges faced by the pensioners in the country.
“The primary challenge is having a reliable system for payment of pensioners; our pension system is not yet developed.
“The system is plagued with factors that make it unreliable,’’ he said
Going by current economic realities, the pensioners believe there is even an urgent need for pension increment, after five years when the last increment was made.
Afolayan said, “Despite the Union’s unrelenting effort to ensure compliance and enforcement of sections 173 sub-section (3) and 210 sub-section (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), relating to the Federal and State civil services respectively. These two sections categorically stipulate that pension should be reviewed every five years or whenever wages of workers are reviewed whichever comes earlier. All the past governments at the Federal and State levels have neglected implementing these constitutional provisions as and when due. It may interest the Federal government to know that pensioners are due for another pension increase in the year 2015 as the last increase was made in 2010.”
Currently, the Pension Transition Administration Department (PTAD) has embarked on biometric verification exercise in order to ascertain the number of genuine pensioners for easy payment of their entitlements. But the NUP president called for a process that will transparent and stress free for the senior citizens.
Speaking on what could be done to address the challenges of the pensioners, Afolayan suggested the creation of ministry of pension and senior citizens affairs.
He said, “The union will very much appreciate it if the Buhari led administration whose mantra of change has global acknowledgement can approve the creation of a full- fledge Ministry of Pension and Senior Citizens Affairs in the manner Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was created.
“This ministry if created will cater adequately for the welfare of pensioners, old people and senior citizens throughout Nigeria as it is practised in developed countries of the world. Closely related to this request is the retention and strengthening of National Pension Commission (PENCOM) and Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). We request that these two pension agencies (the former in charge of Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and the latter taking charge of pension in the old pension scheme known as Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) be retained and strengthened as parastatals under the proposed Ministry.”
Source : Leadership