Akeem Oshinaga retired from the defunct Nigeria Airways, but have been having problems accessing his retirement benefits as at when due. Stockswatch met Oshinaga at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners at TBS, Lagos. He talked about his experiences in retirement and what the pension authorities in Nigeria should do to ameliorate sufferings pensioners. Excerpts:
What’s your name and why are you here at the NUP secretariat?
My name is Akeem Oshinaga. I retired from the now defunct Nigeria Airways 2002. I’m here at NUP to follow-up on the promise made to me by the Union regarding getting my pension benefits.
How far have they been able to help you?
Not much has been achieved. It is a great pity that retirement from service has now become a curse rather than a blessing. In the good old days, retirement was regarded as an achievement and a time to enjoy a pleasurable rest.
That was when payment of pension was made the first charge before any other expenses. That informed the NUP motto of ‘Rest is sweet after labor’, which pensioners have now corrupted into ‘Rest is sweet after payment. Payment of pension has now become a big issue so much so that pensioners are literally on their knees begging for their retirement benefits.
Although some civil service pensioners were paid regularly, retirees in parastatals like the State Broadcasting Service, Water Corporation and retired primary school teachers, as well as former staff of local governments, were owed huge arrears of monthly pensions and other benefits. The worst part of it is that the government has slashed our pension.
If you come to NUP office regularly, you will see pensioners looking very pale; any pensioner that does not have a child that could take care of him or her is in hell.
Have you been verified by PTAD?
Yes, but we have not been given anything yet. They said we should patient, having concluded the nationwide civil service pensioner’s verification; the directorate has embarked on computation of pension benefits in phases for monetary payment due to pensioners who were recently verified. I asked for the arrears and they said as soon as they started getting more funds, they would pay for the 4years arrears.
How do you see pension administration in the country?
Many private sector organizations do not comply with Pension Act regulations requiring them to partner with workers in contributing to the scheme and providing how retirees would access their funds.”
Certainly, the problem cannot be exclusively attributed to the country’s so-called harsh economic realities. It goes deeper than that factor, it shows a clear insensitivity to the circumstances of pensioners who have invested the energies of their active years only to be tortured by disappointment in retirement. It is unfair to the pensioners; and the defaulting parties must accept responsibility.
The relevant authorities need to urgently address the injustice imposed on pensioners who are being prevented from reaping where they have sown by a system that is not working according to plan.
Apart from the agonizing experience of the pensioners, the situation offers no comfort to workers who cannot look forward to retirement with peace of mind. It amounts to a double loss: if workers expected to bear deductions from their salaries for pension purposes end up bearing the pain of delayed pension payment — or worse: non-payment of their pensions.
What would you suggest as solution to the problem?
To redeem the system, defaulters should be sanctioned. That should send a strong signal that the scheme is designed to work, so sabotage, in any form, would not be tolerated. We pensioners are not only being denied what belong to us, but also hit below the belt.
PTAD should give us a living pension. Pensioners, workers and political leaders buy from the same market. They should please have mercy on us and harmonize our pension. Since the advent of this administration, all the requests repeatedly made through various letters, representation and even dialogues and appeals to His Excellency have yielded no result and so, life has been difficult for us on daily basis, because our lives have not been influenced positively in any form or shape.
I think I heard that the Nigeria Labour Congress has thrown its weight behind the pensioners towards their move to overcome their plight over nonpayment of their gratuity and pension by the the relevant authorities.
The state Chairman, of the NUP in Lagos, while addressing the pensioners at a stakeholders meeting held recently, refuted the speculations that the labor congress has abandoned us in the struggle for our pension.
He pointed out that as part of the measure to support the course, the congress has written to all federal Agencies and parastatals and is still awaiting response. The union is planning to give PTAD 21days ultimatum to address the issue. Failure to do that after the ultimatum would force both the congress and pensioners to effect the next line of action.