Retirees under the auspices of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) called on the Federal Government to consider a law to hermonise pensioners’ salaries in the country. This harmonisation according to the NUP will make them to be at par with their colleagues. In this interview with Daily Trust, the Senior Assistant General Secretary of the Union who is also the Information Officer, Comrade Bunmi Ogunkolade, spoke further on the issues.
Tell us why you’re advocating for the harmonisation of minimum pension?
We are calling on the government to harmonize this, the harmonization will make them to be at par with their colleagues, people that have retired long time ago, let their payment be at par with each other. It is a challenge because many places where we explained this, behave as if they don’t understand. This is where our main challenge lies. Workers are enemies of pensioners; but a worker today is a pensioner tomorrow.
In other words, there are some sets of pensioners that retired many years ago, when salaries had not yet been reviewed, 20 to 30 years ago, when the value of the Naira was still high. Maybe they were on 10, 000 or thereabout monthly salary, but people on that same cadre now receive something like N200, 000 to N250, 000, and when they retire their monthly pension will be around 180, 000 to 150, 000; the same grade level.
How challenging is it for your members to survive with pension as low as N4, 000 monthly?
On the issue of retirees and their monthly stipend, government does not just wake up one day and decide how much they want to pay, it has already been written. It is tabulated, this depends on a certain number of issues like “years of service, the grade level you retired, and other factors, but the tabulation is known to everybody. When you retire, you know how much your monthly pension would be, however, the union is planning to embark on other programs that can be a means of funds generation for individual pensioners to augment whatever they are getting as monthly pension.
Some people are receiving as low as N4, 000 every month. If somebody retired on level 2, or level 4, or 5 in the 90s, his total take home was not more than N6, 000.
Now, the table has already stipulated how it will be calculated, 80% of your basic salary.
Our problem now is that people who retired 20 to 25 years ago when salary was at N3, 500, minimum wage, now that minimum wage is N30, 000, but they have not moved minimum pension to N30, 000. If somebody retired at N3, 500 or N6, 000 basic salary, if they now want to add 33.4% to it as they are doing consequential adjustment you will discover that he will now be receiving N5, 000, N6, 000.
When they moved minimum wage to N3, 500 we were in Nigeria, they moved it from N3, 500 to N7, 500 by Obasanjo the then president. They later moved it from N7, 500 to N18, 000. Whatever is minimum wage should be minimum pension no matter the level on which you retire.
As far back as 1972 to 1974, whatever was minimum wage was minimum pension. Around 1981, 1982, during the Shagari regime, they did not take into cognisance minimum pension. Since then we have been struggling so that they can upgrade it. The moment you say this is minimum wage, let there be a minimum pension.
If they agree and help us have a minimum pension, they will now do the remaining consequential adjustment, but they act as if they don’t understand. What we are agitating for is that let there be a minimum pension, let there be a law that whatever is minimum wage should be minimum pension.
Pensioners are due for pension increase haven last enjoyed increment in July 2010. With the new increment, we are going to sit down with the committee that is involved to ensure that pensioners are not shortchanged.
We met with the chairman Salaries, Income and Wages Commission recently on this issue, what we are waiting for is the release of the circular as agreed between the Labour and Government on the latest increment on the consequential adjustment for all other categories of workers.