We treat pensioners with levity for two major reasons: today’s active people never think of ever being pensioners; some are having their “pension” in advance, mostly by corrupt means.
Pensions of old, weak, ill, bed-ridden, blind, hungry, angry are stolen daily. Do we care how pensioners survive, if ever they are paid, and when they are never paid? How do thousands of Nigerians serve their country in the military, civil service and allied places, and no record of their service exists? Why is the discovery only made when they leave service?
No part of our national life reflects our poverty of care than our pension system. For years, many thought only the military was affected. The evidence was when ex-servicemen locked down parts of Abuja.
We tend to see them as some “old people” bent on inconveniencing society, which in our estimation they should not be a part of, at their age.
“We deserve an honourable and respectful treatment as part of the heroes of this nation. We are patriots, we are not dead yet, and should not be treated as if our continued existence is constituting a nuisance and unnecessary expenses to the nation,” one of their leaders said when ex-servicemen stormed the National Conference venue in Abuja to press their case.
Their demands are not new. Even the Constitution states that our people deserve care, at all ages. Specifically, Section 16 (2d) provides that, “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.”
Where are the laws that should give life to these constitutional provisions? Why have we not had welfare laws in almost 16 years of the Constitution!
The ex-servicemen have taken their cases to the National Assembly countless times. They got no audience. Pensioners perish on queues, where they are grilled to identify themselves. It is no longer the responsibility of their former employers to know them. While they are winding their way through narrow gates to their pensions, some people have been made busy of wholesale theft of pensions.
Nothing contributes to theft, corruption and inadequate commitment to national service than the efforts people deploy to work for themselves, out of the knowledge that their retirement plans, if left in the hands of others, are utterly ruined.
America fired its Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a retired general, over poor care for its veterans. Our governments turn away from dealing decisively with pensions because those who should do not depend on pensions. We forget that most of us are tomorrow’s pensioners.