Mrs. Sarah Omokaro is an elderly woman whose late husband retired in 1999. Her husband worked at the now defunct Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL). Sarah has made efforts to access her husband’s pension since his death with little success. She spoke to Stockswatch in a chat where she relates her experiences. Excerpts:
My name is Sarah Omokaro my husband retired in 1999. The reason why I’m at NUP office is in respect of my late husband’s pension. I have spoken to the Chairman and have promised to help with the problem of trying to get my husband’s pension.
I and one of my children are Next-of-Kin to my husband who passed on September 16, 2007. He was retired in April, 1999. He worked at the Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL).
When he was in service, his salary along with his colleagues was not paid through the bank. I went to his Office to collect his pay statement and Letter of Administration from the High Court.
I complained in 2016. The matter was forwarded to the Directorate and I was asked to come to Abuja with my child who is also the beneficiaries. I travelled from Lagos where we are based to Abuja in July 2016 and my documents were verified by officials.
I was certified okay and told to expect payment in three months which is October 2016. As at today, one year and seven months, the Directorate promised to pay me, I am yet to hear from the PTAD. Please, you can help me in this matter by publishing my plight in your paper so that PTAD can look into my case and put an end to the suffering I and my children are going through right now.
Why are NITEL/MTEL workers not being paid pension?
At the time of privatization of NITEL/MTEL, there was a policy of five year buy-out, which entails that the new buyers will pay off the workers five years benefits. Unfortunately, that policy is not part of the condition of service stipulated in the labour law.
What has been your experience all these years?
I have been doing everything I can in the bid to access my late husband’s pension, but until now I have not been fortunate to get paid. However, I’m not giving up; I will continue to come to the Nigerian Union of Pensioners’ office, as the chairman has promised that he can help.
NITEL was a baby from the Post and Telecommunications and Nigeria Telecommunications and they were primarily in charge of international calls. So in 1985, both parties came together to become Nigeria Telecommunications and the sister company went as Nigeria Postal Service, NIPOST.
Now, how do you feel regarding your experience?
I don’t need to say it. For a person that is entitled to his right, it is just like giving you back your right. Definitely an average person would be very happy to have been restored back to her husband’s life pension.
When you talk about pensioners, in the advanced world they are addressed as senior citizens. These are people that have served their father land and in turn are rewarded later on in life. So it is a good thing that government by setting up PTAD has decided to start paying us pension.
The development has relieved pensioners from every mental and psychological tension you can think of, and it is good. We are pleased that PTAD has been put in place to sort out the problems and make pensioners happy once again. When you are occupying an office, a basic responsibility is to do what is expected of you in that office. I’m hoping that PTAD will perform it duty and live up to its responsibility.
I think the Executive Secretary is doing her best, at least, going by my experience during the verification exercise. I saw pensioners treated with dignity and comfort during the verification exercise.
Previously you will see pensioners falling and dying off, but this time around, we are attended to while seated under a very good atmosphere. And the response is very fast. The PTAD staffs are many, cordial in terms of relationship, approachable and you are attended to speedily.
Going by your personal experience, what would you be saying to those about to retire?
When you are in service, what you are paid sometimes is not enough. To make matters worse, some people now stay and do nothing and by the time they retire, they are not doing anything, no business no investment which often result in regret. Even when they are given N10 million as gratuity it will be blown off.
Therefore people should prepare five years minimum before they retire so that they won’t be relying on pension which I just see as a bonus. Therefore, if you get it, you’re lucky, if you don’t get it so be it, one could still live a decent life.
Looking for a second career is the best plan. Protest, to me, will not end in Nigeria, pension monies will not come consistently as people expect; the best way is pre-planning so that one can enjoy a better life after retirement. As such, the key to a successful life is proper planning
What is your call to government on retirees?
Government should first of all cancel the idea of no private practice which gives room for only farming. Once someone comes to work from 8:00am to 4:00pm, he/she should be free to do whatsoever he/she wants to do.
Is the contributory pension scheme relevant to retirees?
To me it is helpful, at least your benefits keep accruing while you are still in service, but there is a problem of transparency which needs to be taken seriously. If there is transparency in the process, then it will go a long way in helping pensioners. But if there is no transparency, pensioners will still have one or two complaints about the efficiency of the scheme.