Re­tirees in­ten­sify protests over un­paid pen­sions, gra­tu­ities

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - By Fran­cis Arinze Iloani

Gov­ern­ment re­tirees in some states in Nige­ria have staged sev­eral protests since the be­gin­ning of the year to de­mand the pay­ment of back­log of their pen­sions and gra­tu­ities.

Sev­eral states are bat­tling cash crunch, which has af­fected their abil­ity to pay work­ers’ salaries and set­tle pen­sions and gra­tu­ities of their se­nior cit­i­zens.

From Jan­uary this year to date, pen­sion­ers have staged demon­stra­tions in Imo, Ogun, Edo, Oyo, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Delta, Osun and Plateau states.

Re­cently, hun­dreds of pen­sion­ers who re­tired from the ser­vice of the Edo State Gov­ern­ment took to the streets in protest of 42 months’ pen­sion ar­rears.

The se­nior cit­i­zens claimed that most of them who re­tired from the ser­vice be­tween 2013 and 2016 were yet to be paid their gra­tu­ities.

A pro­tester held a ban­ner, which read, ‘Edo Pen­sion­ers are more Dis­placed In­ter­nally than the IDPs’.

“The state gov­ern­ment had de­layed the pay­ment of ar­rears of pen­sion rang­ing from 10 to 42 months as a re­sult of which pen­sion­ers have been groan­ing in penury and pains,” the spokesman of the re­tirees, Mr Gabriel Osemwenkha, lamented.

The sit­u­a­tion was no bet­ter in Imo State where a pen­sioner re­port­edly slumped dur­ing a re­cent re­tirees’ protest that ground com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in Ow­erri, the cap­i­tal.

The Imo State chair­man of the Nige­rian Union of Pen­sion­ers (NUP), Chief G. Ezeji, lamented that the gov­ern­ment owed the civil ser­vice pen­sion­ers 16 months, from Fe­bru­ary 2015 to May 31, 2016.

Ezeji also lamented that “The Imo State pen­sion­ers are still re­ceiv­ing pen­sions based on Chief Oluse­gun Obasanjo min­i­mum wage of N7,500 awarded on 2000.”

Sim­i­larly, re­tirees in Ogun State, not long ago, staged a protest at the en­trance of the fi­nance com­mis­sioner’s of­fice over what they called “fail­ure in pay­ment of en­ti­tle­ments.”

In Oyo State, the re­tirees, armed with plac­ards, re­cently con­verged from all the geopo­lit­i­cal zones of the state to protest what they de­scribed as “the in­sen­si­tiv­ity of the state gov­ern­ment to their plights.”

The state chair­man of NUP, Chief Gbade­gesin Akande, dis­closed that the state gov­ern­ment was ow­ing pen­sion­ers their monthly pen­sions since the be­gin­ning of 2016.

Akande also al­leged that over 4,000 pen­sion­ers have been re­moved from the monthly pay­roll of the state.

In Bayelsa, re­tirees early this year de­fied fears and took their protest to the Gov­ern­ment House over un­paid five months ar­rears of en­ti­tle­ments.

“We have not been paid our pen­sion for five months now and some of us have not re­ceived their gra­tu­ity at all, the Bayelsa gov­ern­ment should pay us our money,” the union’s care­taker com­mit­tee chair­man, Mr Bodi Amarah, said.

The protest fever caught up with Bauchi State when re­cently re­tirees stormed the of­fice of the state ac­coun­tant­gen­eral to protest the de­lay in the pay­ment of their pen­sion.

The zonal chair­man of the NUP, Bauchi South, Al­haji Adamu Ibrahim, re­port­edly told re­porters that more than 7,000 re­tirees were yet to re­ceive their Fe­bru­ary pen­sion as at the time of their protest.

In Delta State, pen­sion­ers used the 2016 Work­ers’ Day to vent their anger over non­pay­ment of their pen­sions and gra­tu­ities by the state gov­ern­ment.

Bran­dish­ing plac­ards, the pen­sion­ers staged a protest at the gov­ern­ment house on An­wai Road.

The spokesper­son of As­so­ci­a­tion of Con­trib­u­tory Re­tirees (ACR), Mr. Vin­cent Nken­chor, lamented the in­abil­ity of the state gov­ern­ment to key fully into the con­trib­u­tory pen­sion scheme.

He said the state had failed to use 5 per­cent of its monthly wage bill of em­ploy­ees to open re­tire­ment ben­e­fits bond re­demp­tion fund account with the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN).

“The de­lay in the pay­ment of re­tire­ment ben­e­fits by the state gov­ern­ment to con­trib­u­tory pen­sion re­tirees for over six years has re­sulted in many un­timely deaths, poverty and mass in­debt­ed­ness lenders and dis­closed.

In Osun State, re­tirees in a group also re­cently staged a protest over ar­rears of seven months un­paid pen­sions.

A state­ment signed by the group’s chair­man and sec­re­tary, Com­rades Gbenga Oyeleke and Sola Olo­jede re­spec­tively, in­di­cated that they had lost some of their mem­bers to death due to hard­ship.

A sim­i­lar protest had been staged at the com­mis­sioner for in­for­ma­tion’s of­fice in Jos, Plateau State, over pen­sion­ers’ un­paid en­ti­tle­ments.

The re­tirees lamented that de­lays in pay­ment of their en­ti­tle­ments was lead­ing sev­eral of their col­leagues to their early graves.

Daily Trust had re­ported ear­lier that states had con­tin­ued to have chal­lenges with pay­ing re­tirees their ben­e­fits be­cause years af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the CPS in Nige­ria, many states are yet to start re­mit­ting pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions to it.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that only Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Kaduna, Zam­fara, Niger, Delta and Rivers states have com­menced re­mit­tance of pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions of their work­ers un­der the scheme.

The Na­tional Pen­sion Com­mis­sion blamed the devel­op­ment on in­ad­e­quate aware­ness of the op­er­a­tion of the con­trib­u­tory pen­sion scheme, lethargy in com­pli­ance by states, as­so­ci­ated costs of mi­gra­tion to the CPS, low wages re­sult­ing in so low ac­cu­mu­la­tion of ben­e­fits in the RSA, re­sis­tance by labour and fears by top level civil ser­vants.

As a way out of the prob­lem, the Pen­sion Re­form Act, 2014 (PRA 2014) has made it com­pul­sory for the states and lo­cal govern­ments in the coun­try to join the CPS, un­like the re­pealed Pen­sion Re­form Act, 2004 (PRA 2004), which did not cover em­ploy­ees at the state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment lev­els.

The Direc­tor-Gen­eral of PenCom, Chinelo Ano­huA­mazu, in a con­fer­ence in Abuja said CPS is the way out for states. to money land­lords,” he

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