By Babatunde Ayedoju
It is the desire of people who work for the government, also known as civil servants, that at some point in their lives they will take a bow. As a result of that, words like retirement, retiree, pen down, gratuity, pension and pensioner enjoy a pride of place in their vocabulary.
According to the rules guiding civil service in Nigeria, a civil servant should retire either at the age of 60 or after serving for 35 years. In other words, a civil servant who clocks 60 retires, irrespective of the number of years he has spent in the service, even if it is not more than 10. Similarly, once a civil servant has spent 35 years in the service, whether he is up to 60 or not, he has to take a bow.
Consequently, someone who joins civil service at the age of 30 will retire after spending 30 years, because he would be 60 by then. Also, someone who joins civil service at the age of 20 will retire at the age of 55, because he would have spent 35 years in the service by then. However, the one who joins at 25 retires at 60, after spending exactly 35 serving his fatherland.
That ceremony of taking a bow from the civil service is what a lot of people call pen down. Anybody who has penned down has retired, thus becoming a retiree. A retiree is entitled to a one-off payment called gratuity and a monthly payment called pension. Someone who has retired and earns monthly pension is called a pensioner.
The month of march 2023 came with good news for Ondo State retirees, as the Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu-led administration decided to put a smile on their faces by increasing their pension, in line with the 2019 minimum wage.
While breaking the news in his office at the beginning of the month, the Ondo State Head of Service, Pastor Kayode Ogundele, said that no fewer than 11,654 officers from the state civil service and 11,659 from the local governments’ service who retired before 1st January, 2020, the effective date of the present minimum wage regime would benefit from the new approval.
While congratulating the pensioners in the state, Ogundele thanked Gov Akeredolu for listening to the yearnings of the pensioners and prioritising the general well being of Ondo State workers.
Few days later, while featuring on a radio programme in Akure, the state capital, Pastor Ogundele further disclosed that the Akeredolu government has been religiously paying N2.4 billion annually as gratuities to its retired civil servants.
He said the implication of this for the state is that every month the will be incurring an additional N100 million to pay the incremental arrears.
He said, “Just last year, we had issues with Owena Press retirees. Most of them had not been paid their gratuities for years. Last year, Mr. Governor got the file, and he approved it straight away. Now, all the retirees have all gotten their gratuities. Based on the resources available to the government, we have been putting aside a certain amount to clear the backlog of gratuities in other sectors.
“As we are paying their pensions every month, we also take care of their gratuities every month. There are so many of them that have been there since 2011. You can imagine the number of people that have retired from 2011 to date, but since this administration came on board, it has been providing for that. Every month we make provisions for them. From what we do, by annual calculation, the state government is paying nothing less than N2.4 billion apart from gratuities,” he added.
This kind gesture from the Sunshine state government has elicited reaction from notable personalities and elder statesmen. For example, the Permanent Secretary of the State Pension Transition Department, Pastor Abiodun Akinseloyin, described the approval as a welcomed development, saying it would go a long way to enhance the living conditions of the retirees.
Chairman and secretary of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Ondo State, Comrade Johnson Osunyemi and Comrade Akin Sunday respectively, described the Governor’s approval as unprecedented and a clear indication of his love for the aged and pensioners since he assumed office
The NUP chairman and secretary in their joint statement noted that the Governor’s gesture will end the suffering of many retirees whose monthly pensions are not enough to cater for their needs. The union noted that the action of Mr. Governor as a compassionate gesture would go a long way in ameliorating the suffering of retirees.
Another executive member of the union, Hajj Jola Badmos said the gesture will enhance the financial capability of pensioners and it will boost their take home pay and definitely boost their commitment to the governor in terms of loyalty, performance and support.
Also reacting, former State Chairman, Parents Teachers Association, (PTA) Ondo State, Chief Abimbola Omoloja, thanked the governor for considering the plight of the elderly in the state, saying that he is the first governor to do that.
Omoloja said the governor has used his position in a godly manner to increase their allowances, thereby putting smiles on their faces.
His words: “How can somebody, having served the government meritoriously for 35 years and after that be suffering but the governor has deemed it fit to make their life better, he deserve kudos”.
He therefore called on the governor to continue to use his godly position to ensure that the implementation takes off immediately by not allowing the civil service bureaucracy to set in.
Also reacting, Chief Femi Aluko, a one-time Commissioner for Education, Ondo State, described the gesture by the Ondo State Government as a welcome development that would improve the welfare of retirees and their quality of life.
Also, Comrade Oyekan Arije, an elder statesman, stated that the increase in allowance of pensioners is a welcome development that is long overdue. He added that ideally, pensions should be reviewed at intervals of not more than five years, but it has been a long time the emoluments of pensioners in Nigeria were reviewed.
He said, “By the time the Federal Government negotiated with the unions and they came up with the N30,000 minimum wage, ordinarily the pensioners’ allowances should also have been adjusted since 2019. So, it’s a welcome development, better late than never, and I think Ondo State is the first state in the Southwest to implement the adjustment. For that reason, we just have to express our appreciation to Ondo State Government.
While stating that half a loaf is better than nothing and every kind gesture should be appreciated, Pa Arije said this increase would enhance the income of the pensioners, “even as by 2024, another review will be due again if governments in this country honour the agreement in respect of pensioners.”
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