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Plight Of Retirees In Delta State: Matters Arising

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Joseph Esivwenughwu

The eighteen-seater bus took off from Ojota Motor Park in Lagos heading to Benin City with the contents but after spending hours on the usual traffic jam that have become part and parcel of Lagos-Ibadan Road, it finally finds its way to Shagamu. Those sleeping have all woken up and the quietness was shattered by the sound of a man who accused the driver of not speeding since he wants to connect Abuja from Benin. People began to defend the driver while others queried the man for not connecting Abuja from Lagos direct. He told the uninvited friends that he must collect some documents in Benin hence the decision to take this route. Not too interested, I concentrated more on the newspaper publication in my hand and was savoring every bit of it when the same man’s complain threw the bus into another commotion. He started his lamentation thus, ‘’I have retired for five years now, and my entitlements have not been processed and paid. I worked and retired from one of the Federal Ministry in Abuja’’. The people began to sympathize with him while others accused the Buhari government of embezzling retirees’ money. The noise was so much that no one could concentrate on whatever he or she was doing. At intervals, I decided to intervene. Oga, you are lamenting because you are no longer there, but it is the same office where your colleagues retired, and you are part and parcel of those collecting money from them before moving their files to the next officer table. So, what you are going through now is what you sowed. On hearing this from me, the entire discussion changed. While some agreed with my position, some merely closed their eyes as if they are not aware of the rot in the civil service.

Within the week, the state government issued a statement directing members of the public and especially retirees to report anyone demanding bribe before processing their entitlements. I was not jotted by the announcement because I have raised the alarm years ago that things are not working well with regard to the retirees’ benefits. I even suggested to the government to set up a three-man committee made up of experts to work out the modalities ensuring that at the end of every month, workers’ pension contribution is paid simultaneously with salaries, but it was not adhered to. So, when the news went viral of the retirees which is mostly teachers and local government retirees dating back to 2013, it became clear that something is not just right and if nothing is done about it now it may get worse. Today, it is a fact that every local government council chairman that left office is richer than the council because corruption reign supreme in the council areas. Most of these corruptions were perpetuated by politicians in collusion with the workers who ordinarily should know that the misrule in the council is going to have a long-term effect on him or her when eventually they exit from office. As usual, the All-Progressive Congress in the state was one among the first to sympathize with the retirees over their plight.

In a statement associated with the birthday message from the retirees to Chief Ibori, a former governor of the state, the party said, ‘’Though, there is no gain saying the fact that Chief Ibori laid the foundation for the present crops of insensitive PDP Leadership in the State, which gave birth to what the senior citizens are suffering; but they felt Chief Ibori would be able to speak the language Sen. Okowa hears, hence their cry to him to prevail on the Governor for succor’’.

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Continuing, the party said, ‘’ The party recalled that in the past, APC drew the attention of the public and the State Government to the horrible state of life of retired local government workers and primary school teachers, saying that “unfortunately, because of the Governor’s Pharaohic disposition, nothing has changed. From available information at our disposal, those who retired from active service since 2014; which is well over seven years are yet to receive their pensions and gratuities. What a government! It is annoying and painful that PDP led Government in the State brags and feels that no amount of hardships meted on Deltans, PDP will still have its way in future elections and governance of the State. What a sadistic mentality,” the party said. Delta APC thus urged the senior citizens, who the party described as “our heroes and heroines” and all people of goodwill not to lose hope of the future. All of us should prepare to end PDP led-Government locust’s reign in the State. Affairs of our dear State cannot continue to be left in the hands of those who see our fathers and mothers as less humans,” the statement added.

For years, the Nigerian civil servants have been taken for a ride by the same government they labored earnestly to serve. The issue of Nigeria Railway Corporation retirees which defies mathematical solutions for decades until many of them if not all died due to non-availability of fund to cater for themselves and families. While the Nigeria military at a time was at the fore front of fighting for the retirees’ benefits, the legion, a body responsible for the management of the ex-soldiers and report to the appropriate authority later abandoned the race due to noncompliance with agreements reached by the authorities. While that of the Nigeria Air-Force and Navy appears to be better off, the one of the Nigeria police could be described as death on earth. It is a fact that many military officers and non-officers have paid the supreme price with their lives only for the government to abandon them and their families. Nigeria policemen and files have died while fighting criminals in the country. Their benefits in most cases were not paid to their families. It is very common seeing retired personnel retiring after thirty-five years without a room of their own to lay their head. For years, retirees of the liquidated Nigeria Shipping Line and Nigeria Airways which died of corruption did not feel better. For ages the retirees of these agencies cried their heads off while waiting for the benefits that was not even enough to pay for a room accommodation in the country.

Speaking at Bowen University Iwo recently in a workshop, ‘’ an elder stateman, Chief Ayo Opadokun said, Leaders without integrity have been undermining the growth and development of Nigeria. He said, regrettably, the country will not experience any meaningful rebirth, if most of our leaders are bereft of integrity.

Opadokun, made these remarks as a guest speaker at the third edition of National Civil Leadership Summit, organised by the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Baptist Theological Seminary, Directorate of Ecumenism and Interfaith. The event held at BOWEN University, Iwo, Osun State. He said one major problem bedeviling the nation was poor leadership, as many men and women without integrity are occupying leadership positions in the country. These challenges, according to him, have contributed largely to the journey of retrogression Nigeria has been embarking on for several decades. Most Nigerian public institutions, industries and organizations, he added, have had reversals of fortunes because their leadership was not imbued with the necessary quality of morality and integrity. Opadokun said private institutions are not spared either, as many have equally suffered relocation or total liquation due to management without integrity. —- We have seen situations where the joint account of state and local government councils were becoming easy targets for misappropriation and misuse by state governors thereby denying the LGAs the needed fund for any development.”

While I commend the All-Progressive Congress for adding their voice to the debacle, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubts that they are crying more than the bereaved. The party in essence is merely existing on the pages of social media coupled with woeful performance at the federal level for five years. All the policemen being owed for ages including military were not in the council and teaching cadre. It is a fact that the state does not have any viable opposition at all considering its antecedents from 1999. Before coming out it would have been better for the crises ridden party to put its house in order. Because of its unending crises the local government and teaching staff in the state cannot bank on the opposition party at all. The party as at today have very few councilors while its House of Assembly candidates appear to be nonexistence. The Government of Delta state under the leadership of Okowa can still salvage the situation. From now till the month of December 2021, all ongoing projects should be suspended forthwith. All the allocations form Paris Club refund should be channeled towards paying the backlogs of these retirees. In addition, all monthly allocation and internally generated revenue should be used to pay them after taking care of salaries and wages monthly. The monthly security vote should be directed to the payment of these debts while not less than 20% is set outside for security. The state appears to be going through crises and as it is in the private sector where hard decisions will be meted out to solve difficult situation, the time to salvage the difficulty being faced by the state with regards to the retirees is now.

Written by Joseph Esivwenughwu

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