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Revisiting Nigeria Pensioners’ Plight

By: Funmilola Ajala
 Published October 25th, 2011

Imagine this, a sea of grey-hair, physical frail individuals; some could barely walk without the aid of a stick, and some shaking intermittently as a direct consequence of old age; forced to stand on queue for several hours under scorching sun, for unspecified number of days. The reason; they were once again converging for the annual rituals of biometric data registration and verification, having diligently served Nigeria in the most productive years of their sojourn on planet Earth. Simply put, these are pensioners, now left at the mercy of State given stipends to keep body and soul together when they still live. This is the rueful state of the stark reality of Nigeria pensioners, since 1951 when she launched her Pension scheme.

The plight of pensioners, especially in Nigeria, would be, and is a major cause of concern for any sane individual. From having to endure a less than conducive work environment while in service, to coping with unending months of waiting on the government for payment of gratuity at the point of retirement; the poor pensioners are left with little or no hope when it comes to the prompt receipt of their monthly peanuts from the country. Funny enough, the backlog of this paltry sum sometimes run into months, and perhaps years without any sense of urgency from the concerned authority. Unfortunately, many of these senior citizens have had to answer the call of nature while struggling for their constitutional right over the years.

Sadly, the story has refused to change; even in 2011, as the press has been awashed with news of many of the pensioners either collapsing or succumbing to the cold hands of death, in different parts of the country. For instance, it was reported that an 80year old man (Olusa Ayodele) died during the recently conducted screening of pensioners in Akure (Ondo state). Also, many of the pensioners allegedly slumped, and had to be resuscitated during such exercise in places like Ibadan, Asaba, and Benin City; thus continue this pathetic yearly occurrence. Even, the Pension Reform Act of 2004 has achieved very little in bringing succour to the predicament of the suffering retirees.

Although, many of the poor pensioners exonerate the Federal government, especially the Presidency from the harsh treatment which they are subjected to, year-in year-out; they however pointed accusing fingers to the Federal Pension Board, and some civil servants, many of whom they claim are unsympathetic to their quandary. In turn, the civil servants have in some instances, pointed to the inadequate availability of data capturing facilities as the primary excuse for their ineptitude in attending to the pensioners promptly. Nonetheless, it is shameful to realise that a country like Nigeria, which could afford to expend billions of Naira on the procurement and maintenance of similar data capturing machines for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), just a few months back could complain of inadequate machinery, only when it comes to validating pensioners’ data. Therefore, bureaucratic bottlenecks cannot and should not be a tenable excuse, even in the first place.

In all of these, there is a very dangerous trend which our political leaders have not been looking at; the cognisance of the fact that Nigeria stands to lose than it can ever gain when one considers some perspectives.

Firstly, Nigeria seems to be suffering from a grave loss of confidence, most principally among its young populace. Nigerian youths are regretfully becoming very frustrated, less patriotic, less passionate and enthusiastic about the country of their birth. This was clearly demonstrated, though unnoticed, during the last general elections, going by the number and demographic distributions of those who voted. Many octogenarians, like my grandmother, endured the unfriendly weather conditions of that period to vote, not once, but over a month; whereas many of the more vibrant and energetic youths only turned the streets into football playing ground when the exercise lasted. The few that participated were only cheaply exploited as political thugs by greedy politicians.

Secondly and closely related to the initial postulation is the attendant brain-drain which the country has had to face recently. I was abashed to read a journal some years ago, that about 30, 000 medical practitioners of Nigerian nationality are lawfully working in the United States, even as our medical institutions back home are lacking in experienced and capable hands, in terms of number. Recently, it was reported in the media that a total of 6, 500 legally documented Nigerians are presently undergoing studies in various disciplines, in the same United States. We can expect only a few, if any at all, to return back afterwards. And, the crux of this cannot be far-fetched: a nation that treats her old population with disdain and “use and dump” syndrome will definitely have little in stock for her young offsprings.

Perhaps, a country that deemed it fit to announce handsome financial gratuity to former Heads of State, despite their less than dignifying involvement in bringing the country on her knees through massive corruption, nepotism, and cronyism while in power; should also be expected to be serious in providing a permanent remedy to the suffering of her former civil servants, many of whom still have to shoulder the responsibility of payment of tuition fees of their young wards, who are tied down to tertiary education, not due to their academic incompetence, but as a result of incessant strike actions in government owned universities which their parents could afford, with no hope in sight.

 At this juncture, it is also very important to call for a speedy action in addressing the allegations of corruption among the hierarchy of the Federal Civil Service. This is in line with the latest discovery of misappropriation of several billions of Naira belonging to pensioners, which is now in the full glare of the public, just like the N12billion purportedly embezzled at the Pension Board earlier in the year. This act of impunity must be stopped at all cost if we are to be seen as sincere in changing the domestic and global perception of Nigeria positively.

Ajala, a recent graduate of Politics and International Relations from Lead City University, Ibadan, can be reached via

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