The joy of every worker after putting in the mandatory years of service in the public service and consequent retirement is to sit back and reap the fruits of his labour through regular payment of his pension and gratuity. But the case is not so in Ekiti State as many pensioners are wallowing in penury due to non-payment of their gratuities and pensions.
The retirees, who usually converge on their secretariat at Oke Oriomi, Ado Ekiti, lamented they had spent the better years of their lives contributing to the development of the state, only to now live their old years in poverty.
Our correspondent reports that meeting some of them and listening to their plight was pathetic as tears rolled down their cheeks while narrating the suffering they were experiencing.
Some of them disclosed that what they collect monthly as their pension due was as low as N2,500, yet the paying authorities wouldn’t give them the money when due, a situation they claimed had turned many of them to street beggars.
The chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners in Ekiti State, Mr Ayo Kumapayi, told our correspondent that the state government was owing its members five months pension arrears of state civil servant pensioners and eight months arrears of local government pensioners.
Kumapayi put the outstanding gratuities at over N20 billion, saying about 6000 retirees were living in penury awaiting their gratuities, which he said they didn’t they know when that would come. He expressed regret that governors in the Southwest geopolitical zone “have not done enough to better the lots of retirees.”
He pleaded with the federal government to release funds for the payment of what he called the outstanding 12 months balance on 33 per cent pension increase approved by the National Incomes, Salaries and Wages Commission.
The pensioners’ demands include payment of arrears to secondary and primary school retirees. They are also calling for the review of their pensions in conformity with Section 210(3) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that pension shall be reviewed every five years and should be increased as the national minimum wage is reviewed. Kumapayi regretted he could not remember the last time the section was complied with.
He expressed concern over the attitude of past and present governments in the state to the plight of the pensioners despite their clamour for better welfare. He said the “neglect” suffered by many of the union’s members had led to their untimely death.
Another pensioner, 80-year-old Baba Michael Bello, recalled that he retired from the old Ondo State civil service in 1994 on grade level 14 on an initial pension of N2,400 but now earns a little above N11,000 as monthly pension.
Baba Bello said, “I’m above 80 years now. It is difficult, very hard to live under this present condition that we pensioners are living in Ekiti because if you want to prepare a palatable soup, you will need about N4,000, and that can only sustain you for a few days.
“The amount is not sufficient at all. You have to buy other things that will make you live a comfortable life. Many of us have been forgotten by the government of the day. Many of us have died as a result of inability to afford our medication. Some who could not afford hospital’s bills had died ill. We are burying our members on a daily basis and the government is not doing anything.”
The octogenarian, who uses walking sticks, said that but for many soft-hearted individuals who had been assisting him in many respects, he would have long died.
In the same vein, local government retirees in Ekiti State under the banner of Concerned Local Government Pensioners’ Association of Nigeria in the state recently protested non-inclusion of its members from the November payment of pension by the state government while core civil servants and other pensioners in the state were paid.
The Chairman of the group, Alhaji Quadri Oguntuase, and Secretary, Mr Abiodun Agboola, said they found it disheartening that their members were still not paid their November pension despite the promise made by Governor Kayode Fayemi that all pensioners would henceforth be paid centrally.
Oguntuase and Agboola urged Fayemi to probe the delay in the payment of the said November salary and impose appropriate sanctions on the workers that might have created the unnecessary bottlenecks they said caused untold hardship to their members.
Looking so forlorn and dejected, the pensioners are praying and hopeful that their efforts and sweat would not be in vain.