Pension Arrears To Military Retirees, Others Worrisome

Pension Arrears To Military Retirees, Others Worrisome

As Nigeria prepares to mark another round of the annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day, the vexatious issue of the non-payment of pension arrears of military and retirees from other sectors is one that has proven notorious as it seems to have defied all efforts to change the tide.

Recently, some retirees who served the country in military capacity came out to demonstrate the nonpayment of their pension arrears running up to between three to five years. Some of these military retirees who served during the Nigerian civil war made the appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari in Ekiti State recently, decrying the refusal to pay their pension arrears, whereas the president had approved the sum of N134.7 billion on November, 17, 2022.

Most of these retirees who cut across all the states of the federation are now aged while bearing one form of ailment, ranging from physical deforming resulting from their engagement during their years of active service, or some other health related challenge. This has made most of them to no longer be able to afford the luxury of engaging in any new venture for their sustenance, hence their sole reliance on the proceed of their years of service to their country    

Nigeria’s pension scheme started in 1951 when the colonial British administration established a scheme through an instrument called Pension Ordinance.

Before the enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004, which established a Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, for all employees in Nigeria, the country had operated a Defined Benefit, DB, pension scheme, which was largely unfunded and non-contributory.

The scheme led to a massive accumulation of pension debt and became unsustainable. The CPS, under the Pension Commission, PenCom, has, however, also underperformed.

The PRA 2014 provides that pension should be increased after every five years or whenever there is an increase in the salaries of active workers in line with the provisions of Section 173 of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).

Nigeria ranked low at 64th position in the Allianz Global Pension Report 2020, “especially because of the insufficient adequacy of its pension system”, adding that no African country ranked among the top 10. South Africa ranked 41st, followed by Kenya and Morocco at 55th and 60th respectively.

The report examined the pension systems in terms of sustainability and adequacy of 70 countries to provide a comprehensive view of the respective pension systems.

It added that over the next decades, the number of people of retirement age would increase markedly and put social security systems under severe stress.

The report ranked Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand and the United States as the top five countries, followed by Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Bulgaria and Canada.

While many Nigerian states like Ogun and Ondo find it difficult to pay the poor and irregular pension and gratuity of their retired civil servants, they award huge sums as pensions to former governors and their deputies.

About 24 states, including Ondo and Osun in the South-west, have passed the law to award pensions to their former governors. The other states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Anambra, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Gombe, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Imo, Lagos, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Yobe and Zamfara.

While this was justified as a means to tackle corruption by ensuring ex-leaders have enough to fall back on after leaving office, the initiative has been flawed, as some governors have been jailed for corruption.

The laws provide humongous benefits to past governors and deputy governors; ranging from free property worth up to hundreds of millions, free medical services, vacations, cars and other outrageous demands on the revenue of the state.

Nigerians have wondered why ex-governors and their deputies, who at most served for eight years, enjoy largesse while civil servants who worked for decades are paid poor and irregular pensions.

In July 2022, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project ,SERAP, filed a lawsuit against the 36 state governors over funds budgeted to pay ex-governors life pensions.

The civic group noted that over N40 billion had been paid to 47 former governors from 21 of the 36 states in pensions and for the provision of other services.

AljazirahNigeria strongly urges that the Federal Government pay more attention to the plight of these retirees, not only the ones from the military but also those from other sectors.

Globally, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, is the bedrock for inclusion and respect for the rights of all, irrespective of age, race, colour or sex.

The Act gave birth to the establishment of the National Senior Citizens Centre, NSCC, in January 2018. But nothing was heard from the Federal Government as regards its implementation until June 2021 when President Muhammadu Buhari approved a N2.5 billion take-off grant in October 2021. We wait how far this move can go.

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