Pension and plight of military retirees
Military pensioners in Nigeria have suffered so much maltreatment that they sometimes wonder whether it was a mistake to have enrolled into service to defend the country’s territorial integrity, especially those who fought the civil war to keep the country united and are now too old to earn living better than the monthly pension package.
Any caring observer may however agree that the fault may be in the bureaucratic administrative manipulation or ineptitude rather than policy failure of government, since the constitutional provision is clear and Presidential pronouncements on approved pay increase have been loud and unambiguous. It is noteworthy that though our constitution allows pension increase every five years, it took from 19992009 for an increase to be effected in November, with all the arrears paid by Late President Musa YarAdua in June 2010, even when the benevolent Late commander-in-chief was no longer able to talk. May Almighty God continue to grant him eternal rest. It is also noteworthy that President Goodluck Jonathan acted promptly in calling for speedy action on military pensions when he announced general wage increase for the public service to take effect from 1st July, 2010. This is, at least, acknowledged by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reported by Daily Newswatch 7th February, 2014 Page 4 accusing the Senators of “Misinforming Nigerians”.
Now, in April, 2014, even as the Honourable Minister had declared since February, that the 2010 ‘Salary increase across the board to the public service, increased the wage bill from N856.9 billion in 2009 to N1.36 trillion in 2010”, would the military pensioners and their sympathizers be wrong in asking some questions? Firstly: Why did it take more than three years to effect the increase for the military veterans in August, 2013? Secondly: Why was only 33 percent added to their pay and not the whole approved 53 percent? Thirdly: Why has NOT even one kobo of the arrears been paid to the military pensioners as at today? And lastly: Would the military pensioners be wrong to call in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Ombudsman (Public Complaints Commission) to get the pensions handlers to pay the arrears with interest? The commander-in-chief surely needs to intervene so that the veterans will pray for him and all his cabinet members as we “fade away” one by one, since “Old Soldiers Never Die”. And finally, even if the remaining 20 percent is yet to be added, all who survive will surely expect another pension increase by 1st July, 2015. Let anyone praying to be Nigeria’s President at that point in time take note! The constitution provides so and it will soon be due! Oh that the Nigerian bureaucracy at defence ministry were sensitive enough to pay the over 37 months arrears of military pensions.
Col Ubah John I Paul (retired), Kaduna