Mr. Olufemi Orode is a pensioner and retired in 2001 from the ministry of works and Housing. In this interview with him, he says retirees do not have to beg for pension as it is their right. He also speaks on major issues affecting pensioners in the country and how the newly inaugurated institute will help to champion the cause of retirement and pension in the country. Excerpts:
What role has the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate played in alleviating the pensioners’ problem since it was established?
There has not been any improvement. We are experiencing delay in monthly pensions. There is an outstanding payment of 33 per cent increase in pensions. They are keeping the money; we don’t know the excuses they are giving.
Government said it had given the money to the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, but the directorate said it had not received any money to pay the pension arrears. We don’t understand. Even, for those on its payroll, some of them have not got their pensions.
There are problems of omission of names from the payroll. They have been treating us the way they want. Nobody is giving us any information. Nobody cares about us; they just treat us the way they like. Our arrears are pending, gratuities are not paid; even when we make cases for those involved, they just say they are working on it and we have been hanging on that for a very long time.
Are relatives of deceased pensioners able to get their entitlements too?
The last time I went to the former director-general of PTAD in Abuja, I was told PTAD inherited 46,000 death cases from the head of service. They should not make things difficult for them. Some people have not been on the payroll for 10 years. There is no need to keep waiting anymore; let PTAD settle the families of the dead retirees and release their cheques if they are sincere about what they want to do.
What is your assessment of retirement in Nigeria?
There are gaps existing between the life of a retired person and what it is supposed to be. The gap has meant that retirees, who are supposed to enjoy the last segment of their lives because of what they have done in the last 30 or 40 years find it very difficult to make both ends meet simply because arrangements have not been adequate for them to sit back at retirement and enjoy their lives.
These gaps are from both the retirees, as well as, from the pension authorities. Not much in terms of education and enlightenment has been given to workers that a day will come when they will exit the formal employment and be responsible for the management of their own affairs without expecting a formal salary.
The retiree has on his own part the responsibility of ensuring that he takes cognizance of the fact that a day will come when he will exit and take care of his life. On the part of the government, it is supposed to design policies that will help the retired employees to live good lives when they retire.
When exactly is a worker supposed to start planning for retirement?
From the day one enters the service one is supposed to start planning for retirement knowing that someday you will retire. Preparation for retirement starts from day one at work. Preparation is important because even though you are on pension, the pension may not necessarily be as robust as the salary. But, if carefully planned what he earns from the first day on the job, things will be better. There will be a sunset and that sunset needs to be planned and planned properly.
There are clamours for upward review of the lump sum paid to retirees. What is your take on this?
There will always be clamour because people normally have their own thinking on how government should operate. But government is handicapped by so many things. But, this has to be studied before commenting on.
What is your take on the bureaucracies that impede easy access to retirement benefits for retirees?
I think it is a matter of management. Most of these things are not properly managed and once they are not properly managed, you will have issues. The authority has its own part of the challenge, and the individual also has his. This can be solved by talking to the authority, as well as, the recipient to cushion the problem so that there will be a win-win situation between the retiree and the authority.
Institute of Retirement Management of Nigeria; what work do they do?
The Institute has the wherewithal, the competence and the knowledge to address those issues that are at the root of the challenges we have in the pension sector, both in the private and public sectors. It is approved and registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission, principally to provide advocacy and capacity building to help pensioners on related issues.