N1.2b to Ondo Pensioners
FOR the Ondo State’s civil servants retirees especially those who retired 10years ago, it was good news in the year as the State Government approved the payment of N1.2 billion to offset their unpaid gratuity. This is more so that most workers who retire from government service only get enrolled on the pension scheme while they wait endlessly for their gratuities with some dying before such could be paid. We therefore commend the Lucky Aiyedatiwa-led administration for remembering the seemingly forgotten senior citizens who had laboured to serve the state in their prime.
THE payment which covers the backlog of 2014 gratuity will no doubt bring succour to the beneficiaries, their families, and dependants. It will help these senior citizens to feed well, take care of their age-related health issues, increase their purchasing power, and ultimately boost the economy of the state positively. In a similar gesture, the government last December 2023, also approved one billion naira for the payment of gratuities for primary school teachers and local government workers who retired in 2012.
WHILE we appreciate the government for this gesture, we are quick to remark that the beneficiaries have lost a great deal in terms of the monetary value of the gratuities being owed them. One billion two hundred million naira in 2014 is not the same value today given the hyperinflation in the economy, so government should find a way of paying gratuity as and when due. This is the only way to prevent corruption while in active service.
TRUTH be told that nonpayment of gratuity to retirees is a crime against humanity as it often leads to death, children dropping out of schools, and not being able to start a new life, among other negative implications. This issue becomes more serious as government is still owing a backlog of gratuities running into billions of naira for its retirees. Specifically, Ondo state government is owing workers and teachers who retired at the local government N36 billion while those who retired at state level are being owed N27 billion all in gratuities.
THE Hope, however, notes how knotty the administration of pensions and gratuities has been in Nigeria. This has led to various reforms including the contributory pension schemes with their attendant challenges and failures all traceable to corruption. Previous regimes in Ondo State and other states of the federation including the Federal Government have failed to faithfully implement the pensions law to the letter which include government not paying its own counterpart contribution after deducting employees’ contribution and even when such was deducted from the workers’ salary, government failed to remit the deductions to the employees account with the pension fund administrators, as well as workers not being able to access their savings upon retirement. This has left a huge debt behind for the incoming regimes.
MORE worrisome is the fact that some governors refused to pay a dime in gratuity during their entire four-year or eight-year tenure as the case may be because of their mentality that government cannot finish paying gratuities. Such governors have failed to realize that nonpayment of gratuities as and when due fuels corruption as it makes workers feel that they cannot give all for their nation and may need to help themselves while in service by dipping their hands in government coffers to siphon public funds and convert same to personal use.
TO say the least, civil servants should be blamed for all this mess because they administer state resources. Instead of pushing for more funds to be devoted to and expended on pensions and gratuities, they rather set up bureaucratic bottlenecks for their colleagues who retired by making it difficult for the retirees to access their pensions and gratuities. In some cases, some civil servants in the pensions agencies or departments often demand gratification by making the retirees to part with certain percentages of their gratuities before they are released to them. This is tantamount to wickedness and man’s inhumanity to man.
SINCE payment does not come as expected, government should orientate workers on the need to plan well ahead of retirement. Government should devote a percentage of its monthly generated revenue to payment of gratuities. The Nigeria Governors Forum should make it a principle that each governor pays a percentage of gratuity per year. For seamless pension administration, there should be more funding. Going forward, government should consider contributory pension scheme and put adequate machinery in motion to make it effective.
THE Hope insists that no amount of effort and resources devoted to the welfare of retirees will be too much given the spiral effects the payment and nonpayment of gratuities have been on them and society.