Many pensioners under the old pension scheme are despondent because of the non-payment of their entitlements. The retirees are worried that new problems are being created in the process of solving existing ones.
In their state of despair, pensioners, many of whom are denied their monthly pensions and other benefits, have called on the Federal Government to find lasting solutions to the lingering problems in the system.
While many of their colleagues have suffered untimely deaths due to lack of money to feed and maintain good health, those still alive are seeking better attention from the government as senior citizens, saying they do not want to die in penury like their peers.
A critical assessment of the plights of the pensioners reveals that many of them are grappling with poor pension payments, omissions of names from payrolls, default in gratuity payments, and subjection to difficult screening exercises, which sometimes claim the lives of frail old pensioners, among others.
Notwithstanding the series of screening exercises, the country still lacks accurate data of the living pensioners, let alone the dead, whose families should ordinarily be paid their entitlements.
The former Coordinator, National Union of Pensioners, Lagos State, Mr. David Adodo, has continuously been carrying pensioners’ complaints to the pension office in Abuja to ensure that their entitlements are paid.
He said it was important for the Federal Government to give ample attention to pension payment.
While suggesting way out of the quagmire, Adodo said, “The Federal Government should release funds to clear the outstanding payments and ensure that a federal ministry of pension is established.”
According to him, the government should fund the Pension Reform Task Force, which is currently administering pensions in the old scheme, and give it a deadline to enrol all pensioners back on the payroll, if the team is still needed.
With the establishment of a pension ministry, he said pensioners would know who to hold responsible for the payment of their entitlements,
He expressed fear that people were hiding under the office of the Head of Service of the Federation to commit all sorts of financial atrocities because the office lacked internal control mechanism.
For instance, Adodo said the office was the administrator and custodian of pension funds under the old scheme, thereby giving room to those there to mismanage the huge amount of money in its care.
The system, he said, was different with the PRT, which he said had an inbuilt internal control mechanism.
“People have been taking our money for so long, they have tampered with our money and they built castles with the money. Because the pensioners are just old men and women, nobody is talking,” Adodo lamented.
According to him, pending problems in the system include the removal of pensioners’ names from payrolls, while some of the retirees are still having problems with documentation.
Though Adodo observed that the PRT was having some issues with the Senate, he said it should not be hurried out of office because there were still lots of pension arrears to be cleared.
“Let them give the PRT soft landing that after it might have cleared all the arrears, the management can be handed over to whosoever they want,” he said
He described the last biometric verification conducted in the industry as primitive, Herculean and trying for the physically-challenged.
“A lot of people died, it is not something we pray for again to happen. I think it is for this reason the PRT chairman introduced the biometric data verification, which is very reasonable in all local governments. They should allow it see the light of the day instead of us going through the erroneous task where people will be collapsing and dying on queues,” Adodo said.
The first Chairman, NUP, Federal Civil Service Sector, Lagos, Rev. Samuel Aderonmu, said the government should make sure that the HOS paid all federal pensioners as and when due so that pensioners would not continue to suffer or become sick because they did not have money to maintain themselves.
According to him, the President should regularly be able to call the HOS to explain how far the pension offices have been satisfying all pensioners because they served the nation meritoriously and should be well looked after for the remaining part of their lives.
He said that those whose pension arrears had not been paid should be paid, while all increments should be paid in good time because many pensioners had died while waiting for their entitlements.
“I appeal to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to please include in their quarterly agenda, reports from the Head of Civil Service of the Federation about regular payment of monthly pensions to all the federal pensioners in Nigeria, and to provide adequate funds for that purpose,” Aderonmu said.
Mr. Kamoru Olowiden, is a member of the NUP Lagos and was getting his pension stipend until 2010 when it was stopped without any explanation.
“Since 2010, they have not paid me. They were paying me before but they later stopped. Some pensioners are underpaid or paid irregularly. And we are hungry, some are dead. Our monthly pensions should be regular; give us our right. Aside from the fact that we are suffering, we have no other means except God,” he said.
Another pensioner in Lagos, Mr. Joshua Ademuyiwa, decried the hardship he and his colleagues were facing because of the issues with their pensions.
While an individual might not be able to go to the pension office and get attention, he said the group that usually go on behalf of the pensioners usually go through lots of stress.
He narrated an experience when he was still strong that he and another active member of the union were sent to Abuja with names of about 250 pensioners who were not receiving their monthly pension payments.
Ademuyiwa said,”I and another pensioner travelled about two times to Abuja to help our people when pensions were stopped in 2010. I went to Abuja but on reaching their, the pension officials abandoned us.
“Before we could get our 10-month arrears, we went through a lot of stress. We carried more than three bags of Ghana-must-go forms; other old pensioners were there also, climbing staircases. We saw other bags of complaints under the stairs; they did not do anything about it.”
Now that he is not getting younger, he is worried that he can no longer go through such stress of travelling, carrying huge documents and climbing staircases in pension offices, the same situation that many old and fragile pensioners are still being subjected to.