Like the saying goes, anything that has a beginning also has end, and in most cases most people look forward to a happy ending in whatever they do. This is not the case of most Nigerian workers; Nigeria has become a nation where no one prays to be a pensioner. Retirement in the time past is a thing of celebration and every worker, both in government or private sector looks forward to, it was a thing of honour and pride after retirement to be identified as a senior citizen.
Today, retirement in Nigeria has become a thing of sorrow, anguish and rejection; hardly would a week pass without the news of pensioners barricading the streets in protest demanding for their arrears or retirement benefits. At the last count about 22 states are heavily indebted to their pensioners; most of these pensioners have been reduced to perpetual beggars begging for every crumb to put body and soul together. Majority have died waiting to collect their pension while many of their colleagues are suffering from life threatening diseases with no hope in sight when they will be paid.
The question begging for answer is; how did we get to this sorry pass as a nation? As I write, Edo state retired local government workers have been in the street protesting non-payment of their monthly pension and have also resorted to fasting and praying calling on God to come intervene in their case. From Edo to Kogi, Abia, Benue, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun state etc. the story remains the same. In Imo state, in order to meet up with the burden of paying up the arrears of pensioners, the state government has slashed their salaries to 40%.
The retired workers from federal government are not left out in this, every day pensioners across the federation are faced with the daunting task of traveling to Abuja, moving from one ministry to another, for data capturing, filling of forms and dropping files. The plight of pensioners across the country is nothing to write home about, one out of every 3 families you see have passed through the experience of either being owed retirement benefits or those whose pension don’t come regularly and yet, we are told pension operators have been able to manage #6 trillion of pensioners’ contributory scheme. With such huge amount saved, why are they subjected to impunity or in worst cases left to die without enjoying the fruits of their labour? While pensioners are left to their fate, most of our retired governors who are presently in the senate are also receiving pension from their various states including housing allowances and also collecting same as serving senators. What an injustice? We rob the poor to service the rich who do nothing but to impoverish and deny our children a better life. This explains the reason why most Nigerian youths don’t believe in the system but, rather, prefers to go die in the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross over to Europe.
To the Nigerian pensioners, will the end ever justify the means?
Written by Joe Onwukeme