PENSIONERS SUFFER IN AN OCEAN OF WEALTH
PENSIONERS SUFFER IN AN OCEAN OF WEALTH
Labour must Wage Struggle for Living Pension
By Emmanuel Adikwu
The gulf between the pension of retired workers and that of political office holders is unimaginably wider than what any poor, but conscious Nigerian could imagine. Vast majority of the poor toiling masses and pensioners survive on less than 2 dollars per day, while the corrupt ruling elites and their cohort feed fat on the vast chest of resources and stupendous wealth within their control. Aside life pension that key political office holders enjoy, just about 17,000 political office holders are costing the public over N1.5 trillion!
TRAVAIL OF PENSIONERS
There is no end in sight to the travails of pensioners who despite putting the most productive part of their adult life into active service for the country and profession, are not reaping the fruits of their labour after retirement, and even in their old age. A recent pointer to this fact is the peaceful protest embarked upon by retired military pensioners in Kano, over the non-implementation of the 53 percent pension arrears which have accumulated since 2011, without any hope of being paid. Most pensioners face unnecessary similar humiliation and maltreatment from discourteous and callous pension officials.
In recent past, federal and state pensioners sometimes have to endure several months of untold hardship before a percentage of their pension arrears are eventually paid. These old men and women retirees are sometimes made to endure long trips to Lagos or Abuja, or state headquarters for some officials to ascertain their continued existence (verification). In some cases, the pensioners- if they enjoy relative good health- do not even have enough funds to make the trip. In other cases, they simply arrive at the city centre, build a tent and remain there, sometimes for months, while the verification lasts. But after going through this ordeal, some pensioners unfortunately, never receive such payments due to untimely death while on long queues awaiting verification.
CONTRIBUTORY PENSION FUND- RIP OFF TO WORKERS, PROFIT TO BIG BUSINESS
To further compound the woes of pensioners, the Obasanjo-led government privatized the pension scheme. With this, government has created a pool of excess fund for private sharks to exploit at the expense of workers and pensioners. It was dubiously tagged ‘contributory pension fund’, but in actual fact, the toiling workers and pensioners do not have a say in how the scheme is being run. This private pension scheme has also forced workers to contribute more to pension compared to the public and private scheme before 2004. It explains why the military pulled out of the scheme while the trade union leaders continue to harbour it.
Although the latest amendment has workers contributing 8% and employers contributing 10% compared to previous 7.5% each, the rising cost of living has largely undermined this 2% benefit for workers. More fundamentally, the contribution of this pension depends on the poverty wage of workers upon which any readjustment has very little impact for workers. Hence, any pension scheme that is not dependent on a living wage and taking into account the inflationary rate will not guarantee better standard of living.
LIFE JUMBO PENSION FOR KEY POLITICAL OFFICE HOLDERS
The ‘Pension for Life’ Act that has since been signed into law by some State Houses of Assembly allocating jumbo pensions and allowances to state executives as pension at the expiration of their tenure. A replica of this same self-serving legislation has also been endorsed by federal legislators in favour of the President and Vice President as well as President and Deputy President of the Senate, and Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives to further their present lifestyle of opulence at the expiration of their tenure.
Despite being unwilling to pay retirees their meagre pension, governors in half a dozen states – Rivers, Lagos, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Gombe and Zamfara – in connivance with state legislature have since passed into law a mind boggling, jumbo executive pension for their pleasure at the expense of the welfare of the masses. Other states and local government is likely to follow suite. A peek at this executive pension reveals that: they award new cars for themselves periodically; their medical bills are taken care of for life; they are entitled to a full complement of domestic staff; they are eligible to free holiday trips abroad; they also get free monthly pension the equivalent of their salary, as well as an untold world of goodies for life.
In a pro-working peoples’ government, political office holders will go back to their careers after expiration or recall earning living wage in line with civil service salary structure which would save more money for infrastructural development.
FOR A FIGHTING LABOUR TO DEFEND LIVING PENSION
Organised Labour must, as a matter of urgency, call for mass actions to resist such brazen anti people legislations and call for the scrapping of same. Labour must reject the private pension scheme, wage a struggle against it aimed at entrenching a public funded and democratically managed pension scheme that can guarantee living wage and pension. The fight for a living pension must be tied to the fight for a living wage, better living standard and basic infrastructure.