- Retirees should no longer be subjected to harrowing experiences before receiving their pension
One key factor that aided the election of Candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election was the promise to end rampant corruption in the country. He is on record to have said if Nigeria does not kill corruption, the menace would kill the country. Six years after, corruption is as rife as it was back in 2015. In high and low places, graft is the name of the game. Hardly could anything get done in the public service without some envelopes loaded with Naira passing under the table.
Perhaps the worst form of corrupt practices is that applying to payment of the paltry pension of the senior citizens. It is an irony that civil servants still in service, who have identified many holes through which vitality is drained out of the system, are responsible for subjecting the retired ones to undue hardships that snuff life out of many of the old, hapless men and women. Daily, new methods are devised to deny them their due.
It took a special investigation by the Africa Eye of the British Broadcasting Corporation to expose some of the shady deals involved in cheating the old men and women. A special focus on the sector in Cross River State exposed how some of them had been prematurely despatched to the Great Beyond, owing to hunger, untreated ailments and undue exposure to the elements as they had nowhere to sleep when invited to Calabar, the state capital, to prove they were still alive.
Unfortunately, the situation is not limited to Cross River State where even magistrates are left unpaid for months and subjected to the indignity of protesting on the streets for payment of their wages. Other states and even the Federal Government are involved in the practice. Recently, it was revealed that despite legal provisions that salaries of the old men should be reviewed to keep pace with inflationary trend at every review of the minimum wage in the country, some are still being paid amounts as ridiculous as two thousand Naira only in many parts of the country.
If corruption is to be truly curbed, workers need to be assured that their future welfare is guaranteed. When the time hallowed principle of decent living for government workers in service and retirement is so cruelly breached, they would be challenged to seek loopholes through which they could fend for themselves and save towards retirement. The moral fabric of the nation is worn out and requires efforts by governments, federal, state and local, to work at changing the values. This would necessitate working at engendering confidence in workers and other citizens who are their dependants or sympathisers. Those who see the way they are tossed about under the pretext of discovering ghost workers are not likely to have confidence in the government of the day, or even the Nigerian state. This is likely a contributory factor to the reluctance of citizens to work with the government and its agencies to curb the various ills plaguing the system.
The Cross River State government, in this instance, should feel ashamed that a foreign medium found practices in the state suitable to illustrate bad behaviour and poor governance. The least it could do to remedy the situation is to fish out the rotten eggs involved and met out appropriate punishment. A situation whereby old men and women are made to part with part of their paltry pension is unacceptable. Government officials who convert such pension to personal use on the excuse that the beneficiaries are dead should be identified and prosecuted as lesson to the others, to prove that there is limit to the bad behaviour that the system could tolerate. Beyond these measures, a fool-proof system by which the senior citizens are seamlessly paid without subjecting them to harrowing experiences should be put in place as the workers today will be retirees tomorrow.
Other states and tiers of government should take a cue from this and ensure that corruption in this sector is curbed immediately.