How pensioners are robbed and dumped

When the ancient Hebrew wise King Solomon said that the aggressive shall be rich while the poor is feeble (Proverbs 10:4), he probably foresaw the poverty, agony and distress that retired civil servants would face in Nigeria after spending their youthful lives and talents working for a system that doesn’t care for their welfare. King Solomon was sounding a note of warning to humanity that the only way to liberate from poverty is through diligent working, smartly, along the line of personal vision. Getting a job might be good in a system that cares for the citizenry. But one won’t be rich even in such a system; the person won’t suffer on retirement and old age.

Worldwide, the richest people are not salary earners or civil servants. The richest people are those who have personal vision of what they want to do with their own hands. When the vision is put into action, the result is prosperity and wealth. Forget about the corrupt visionless and greedy individuals who robbing the system hoping to be rich. Those who got their wealth through dubious means, King Solomon reminds that, “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished; but he that gathers by labour shall increase,” (Proverbs 13: 11).

The wealth of dubious, corrupt, thieves, scammers, robbers, kidnappers, pen robbers, forgers, etc, shall be diminished. Their wealth shall never succeed them into the next generation. Their ill-gotten wealth shall end with them. That is the eternal truth, of which nothing can stop it, whether they like it or not. The only way out of the curse is restitution otherwise they and their generations are dammed.

The question may be asked as to whether pensioners weren’t diligent? Were their hands slacked? Could that be the reason why they are suffering in poverty? The answer is simply yes. If it is true that under normal circumstances, salary earners are not known to be rich, then it means that a decision to remain a salary earner, working to realise someone else’s vision or a system that doesn’t care for your welfare on retirement is a decision to be poor.

It is common knowledge that in Nigeria, people working in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are among the laziest workers in the system. They hardly think about how to improve the system. And as if to pay them back for their lack of wisdom, their meagre pension is stolen. The pension authorities that were supposed to pay at federal and state levels abandon them to their fate. The result is that across Nigeria, pensioners are suffering in penury when they should be reaping the fruit of their labour. The system they worked for has robbed them when they are powerless.

It is not that they didn’t make savings under the extant pension scheme. The truth is that the money has been stolen by their corrupt successors who have become “wiser” by falsely believing that the only way to safeguard and guarantee their future is by robbing the system.

After the funds have been stolen, their corrupt successors are the ones now asking the hapless, weak and old retirees, every now and then, to come for endless verification as if the system kept no records of who worked for it. The hapless pensioners go through hell in an attempt to be verified but at the end still get nothing. The verification is a crafty way of ensuring that some even die in the process, thereby forfeiting the pension which is then shared among the thieves.

That raises the question: Shouldn’t the contributory pension of a deceased person be paid to his or her next of kin? Under the current contributory pension scheme in which the worker contributes a given percentage of his or her salary every month to the personal pension savings account, does the money in the account not belong to the worker whether living or dead? Do banks claim the money in some ones account even if the person is dead? The answer is No. If that be the case, the money in a worker’s personal pension account belongs to him or her in life and in death.

The other crucial issue is the amount retirees are paid from their pension savings when retired or laid off. The only way a retiree could absorb the shock and adjust to a new life is by getting his/her pension savings money to start a new life. But this is not happening from the experience of people who lost their job following the rampant layoffs in many companies.

My investigation shows that retired or laid off workers are paid only 25 per cent of their pension savings, while the remaining 75 per cent is spread over a period of 21 years and paid in bits monthly. In this system where life expectancy is 47 years, why hold someone’s money who retires at say 60, for another 21 years? What is the guarantee that the person will live till age 81?

Definitely, the 25 per cent paid amounts to swindle, as that can’t help the person. It is unfair. Persons who have had this experience lament that the 25 per cent paid them, especially, under the crushing economic recession, can’t help them start up any good business. What then is the essence of the pension if a retiree can’t fall back on it to begin a new life?

When a worker retires, the most critical challenge is how to find his feet. If government is humane and fair and just, retirees should be paid at least 50 per cent of their pension savings, to enable them start a new life and by extension alleviate poverty.

Otherwise, paying 25 per cent is part of the systems’ oppressive scheme to perpetually keep workers down and poor. The workers are perpetually at the receiving end of the raw deal. They are never meant to enjoy the good things of life. This is sad. Nigerian workers are among the worst treated in the world.

The debate over whether or not to approve a new minimum wage of N56, 000 from the mockery N18, 000 exposes the disdain for workers in Nigeria. It is shameful and embarrassing for Nigeria to be talking of paying workers a minimum wage that amounts to $51 as salary per month. Even, the N56, 000 is not the best. The system encourages corruption by putting workers in tight corner where they must steal to make ends meet.

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