I was 61 years old by His grace on the 12th December 2017. It also means I have spent one year in retirement. My hope for a peaceful rest after spending 35 years of meritorious service seem to turning into despair and resentments about the system, I thought would be there for me.
While pondering on why in spite of the pension reform, one year after my retirement I could not access my benefits.
As I continued pondering on what may be the reason, I recall one of the major assignment I did early in my career was on the issues relating to the pensions of the defunct Ex Nigeria Airways staff.
The term reference given to the committee of which I was Secretary was to verify and ascertain the number of staff that were entitled to be paid their pension, pension arrears and gratuity;
The committee was also mandated to examine and recommend to government if the payoff option would be acceptable to the staff in order to put matter to rest;
This was in the light of the fact that the issue was becoming embarrassing to government.
The defunct Ex staff of airline were threatening to shut the Nigeria space if their pension and pension arears were not paid.
The problem we faced at the time was the air line has been liquidated, all its properties at home and abroad had been sold by the liquidators without taking into consideration the plight of the personnel benefits.
We flew to Lagos with the chair person of the committees Mrs Jaji Olabisi Bolanle to start the job we were confronted with problem of lack of management on ground to assist in the job the company has liquidated some years ago. The only help that was available came from the pensioners themselves.
We were shown thousands of files and records heaped in some few offices dating from the time when the company was then called the British Overseas Air lines to sift through. I was so astonished with the way the records were kept and didn’t know from where to begin.
My initial reaction was to abandon the exercise and advice government on what should be done in the circumstance, but for the gloomy reality of suffering on the faces of the pensioners, my sense of pity for the staff over shadowed my initial temptation to walk away.
Thirteen years down the line in spite of the pension reforms that took place to sanitise the pension operation in Nigeria the process still leaves much to be desired.
The founding fathers of the Reform envisaged that when the reform act comes into force, it will eliminate some of the troubling issues that were part the administration of pension in Nigeria.
Some of the intended benefits of the reforms are;
1. To establish uniform rules and regulations for the management and payment of retirement benefits to beneficiaries as and at when due;
2. To stem the growth of outstanding pension liabilities and reduce fiscal cost to government, stimulate domestic savings,
3. To generate a pool of long term funds for investment in social and economic development;
4. To ensure contributors receive their benefits as and when due and
5. To assist improvident individuals to save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age;
These are some of the lofty ideals of the pension reform act.
For the thirteen years or so that the new arrangement is in force it has brought some level of sanity in the system.
We have not been hearing people dying on cues waiting to collect their stipends, the level of corruption that characterised pension administration is either not there or have been reduced to the barest minimum.
Unfortunately, however recently some hick ups have started pulling this noble objectives down.
The Reform instead of benefiting the pensioners may end up benefitting the Pension Fund Administrators and the government.
It is a fact that pension funds base now ran in to trillions so why should pensioners wait a period of over one year before they access their benefits?
This is a fact I retired from public service on the 12th of December 2016 and today is 13th December 2017 and each time I reach out to my pension fund administrator, I am always being told they treating payments batch by batch. This means I am not the only one.
What my pension administrator seem to have not realised the Accountant General of the Federation has knocked out my salary from the system on the 12th of December 2016. Worst still the bureaucracy only paid me the twelve days I worked for in December of that year no mercy. Here I am no salary no pension for solid one and the future is uncertain.
Might be pencom also need to look up to some states who have not join the system but are in the process to join and borrow some the innovations they have.
I can at least advice Pencom to follow the examples of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State my home state.
Today he is the only Governor who does not owe any worker a salary for even one month and ensures that as you retire you begin to receive your pension the following month you leave service, the transition from a salary earner and pensioner is seamless.
Infact he has little or no backlog of salary or pension arrears as is the case in most states of the Federation.
Let me also say this before critics start shouting and crucifying me that he pays the least salary.
Yes even if this true at least he is paying them as when it due after all issues relating to wages and salary by law is contract between the employee and employer.
If one knows Yobe, we are among the most poorest state in the Federation our internally generated revenue (IGR) is nothing to write home about. If Gaidam fails to pay the meagre salary he has been paying regularly the economy and living standard of the people would nose dive and in the light of the problems caused by Boko Haram, The number of the refugees in the state would be phenomenal.
I am therefore appealing to Pencom to do what is necessary to stop the ugly trend rearing its heads in the system by avoiding the filling of pension payment so that the credibility in the system is not eroded.
Human beings, when confront with a source of threat, if not corrected on time will begin to innovate and this has the capacity to bring in un wanted practices.
So “A stitch in time they say…