Before the cancellation of permanent police checkpoints on the highways in Nigeria, a police sergeant who was promoted to the rank of an inspector in the Nigerian Police once bemoaned his hard luck when announcing his sudden but rightful elevation to his naïve, joyous wife. Since his wife could not immediately get the import of his promotion, the policeman had slowly but determinedly explained his predicament to the bemused woman who upon getting grip with the true picture of the whole situation started wailing and pleading with her husband to reject the promotion.
Yes, the promoted sergeant, who before his elevation was almost always on the highways on patrol during which motorists would be forced to give cash to the patrol team, will now work in the police station as a boss, waiting for his boys to return. As far as he is concerned, his promotion is nothing but demotion and less spending spree.
Like that policeman, most civil servants, who should wait eagerly for their retirement from service and have enough time to take proper care of themselves while they are still being paid pensions, see retirement day as an evil day; a day that haunts most of them so much that it sometimes results in their ill health and even sudden death before their actual retirement.
But what is responsible for this paradox? A civil servant, apart from specially considered cases , such as for university professors, is expected to disengage from the civil service upon the attainment of the age of 60 years or if he has served for a period of 35 years in the service. The importance of retiring early enough from service has been stated earlier, but most civil servants would prefer to work in the service until their last day on earth. One major reason for such attitude is that life in retirement in Nigeria is not too rosy; even those still working sometimes lobby to be posted to juicy offices to augment their salaries, while the unfortunate ones have to start tasting the bitter pills of retirement while still in service.
That explains why corruption is on the rise because nobody wants to leave office without accumulating sizeable wealth to take care of the vagaries of retirement days. Payment of pensions to retired civil servants in the country has not been regular and there have been cases of some pensioners being owed pension arrears for months, while death had been reported because of fatigue suffered by some pensioners who are made to wait indefinitely on queue for clearance. Again, the present contributory pension scheme has its worrisome side. It requires one to contribute over a long time for better pension pay and the issue ofpayment of the erstwhile bulk disengagement money, otherwise called gratuity, to civil servants is still hazy.
That explains why some civil servants would want to reduce their actual age so much so that even when they are 70 years old or more, their official age would simply remain at 45 years or less.
Can one beat the following age manipulation of some archetypal Nigerian public servants? One was born in 1972 but finished primary school in 1970; the other was a soldier during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) and was born in 1960, while the brightest of them all had been a permanent secretary (PS) for 12 years and still had 15 years in service. As for the last example, the manipulation is simply nutty. Was he just 8 years in service when he was made a PS, which is 35-(12+15)27=8years? How old was he when he joined service? Perhaps he was 2o years, and yet his first child is 45 years old, born two years after marriage.
A critical research into the ages of most civil servants would reveal such manipulation of age just to remain in service not only at the detriment of their health but at the expense of expected productivity and growth of the national economy. Such manipulations would not allow for fresh ideas towards the realisation of set goals in any establishment since the old staff who may not entertain progressive discussions on important issues had cut corners to remain on the job. It has been reported that some retired civil servants in one of the states in the country have formed an association through which they are challenging their retirement legally. These indeed are worrisome developments in the service.
Against this backdrop, therefore, measures should be put in place while recruiting civil servants, not only to ensure that their actual ages are ascertained at their point of entry, but to also checkmate future manipulation of the given ages while still in service
· Johnson Ebigide, a journalist, writes from Asaba, Delta State .