It is not commonplace for old men to weep in public glare but these elderly citizens could not hold back their tears as they recounted their ordeal arising from many months of neglect and the attendant sufferings. Having given their all to their fatherland during their 35-years of active service, these senior citizens had expected that they would be paid their gratuities and other retirement benefits without much ado. But that was not to be, a situation that has turned them into beggars, depending on foodstuffs from neighbours to eke out their daily living.
These pensioners were in tears as they recounted their plight to newsmen in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital last week.
Recounting their ordeal in the hands of both the Federal and State Governments, the Ogun State State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Chief Keshington Odukoya alleged that many pensioners in the State have died or are languishing in abject poverty because they have not been paid their retirement benefits. Appealing to both the Federal and State Governments to come to the aid of the senior citizens, he stated that â€œ pensionersâ€™ joy is truncated over series of disappointments,frustrations and deprivations.
They are being subjected to all kinds of hardships as a result of the endless and fruitless verification exercises,which often led to pauperization and impoverishment of our members through irregularities in pension payment,short or under payment,omission of names from payrollâ€.
The union leader condemned the claim by the Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina that he had saved N181 billion of pension funds while thousands of unpaid pensioners are either dying or languishing in abject poverty.
The union challenged PRTT to publish the names of the 70,000 ghost pensioners it claimed had been discovered for the purpose of confirmation.
Furthermore, the senior citizens requested that the payment of Federal pensions should be returned to the states for reimbursement as it was before 2002.
Odukoya described the problems confronting the retired Primary teachers as disheartening . According to him, five per cent Federal counterpart fund expected to be paid to each State on behalf of these categories of pensioners have not been paid.
Secretary of the pensioners union, Mr. Bola Lawal said that the Ogun State government is still owing a backlog pension entitlements to local local government retirees.
â€œWe seize this opportunity to call on the State government to offset all the outstanding dues to local government pensioners and retired primary school teachers,â€ he said..He alleged that most of his members have not received any gratuity and pension while those who have been paid, were shortchanged.
â€œI want to passionately appeal to our President to please help us; we know that he may not be aware of our plight. Some of us depend on our children from Lagos to send cooked soup and stew to us so that we may not die of hunger. Our situation is that terrible, â€œ he said.
Speaking about the pensioners of the State, Lawal who was flanked by the state auditor of the union Alhaji Babatunde Ashiru urged the State government to settle all outstanding gratuity and arrears of new increase in pension.
â€The Federal Government should wake up to its responsibility by paying everybody. Those who have not been paid for many years should have their names included in the pensions list.