There is no gainsaying the fact that it is high time the use and abuse of early retirement in Nigeria attracted the attention of the Nigerian judiciary, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Organised Private Sector (OPS), Human Rights Organisations, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM), Institute of Personnel Management (IPM), all Civil Service Commissions both at Federal and state levels, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and all States’ Houses of Assembly in the country including the Federal Capital Territory.
The pathetic case of the forceful early retirement of a Nigerian citizen, Alhaji Abdulahi Tafida, who held the position of Chief Executive Officer in Kano Electricity Distribution Company, an arm of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) is a clear indication that there is need for a cursory and second look to be taken at the use of ‘early retirement’ as a tool of management and administration in our country. There is no doubt that many helpless Nigerians have also fallen victims of early retirement at the peak of their chosen career for unjustifiable, untenable, unimaginable and incomprehensible reasons.
It would be recalled that in the Business & Economy column on page 19 in The Punch newspaper of Wednesday, April 6,2011, it was reported, in a story titled, “ICPC probes officials over PHCN secret accounts” that one Alhaji Abdulahi Tafida lost his job as a Chief Executive Officer in Kano Electricity Distribution Company for blowing a whistle on four illegal bank accounts opened and operated by some top officials in the Kano branch of PHCN. In the said report, Alhaji Tafida was quoted to have said that, “it was when he raised the alarm over the existence of the accounts that he was recalled to the headquarters of the organisation in Abuja and subsequently retired, five years before he was due to retire. The burning flame of patriotism in the likes of Alhaji Tafida shou1d have been allowed to burn freely without any hindrance from any quarters if our nation is to succeed in the ongoing fight against corruption in our society but unfortunately, this is not to be if the reaction of his employer is anything
The million dollar question for employers of labour in both the public and the private sectors of our economy is still early retirement now an acceptable norm and a tool that should be used as panacea for settling personal scores with whistle blowers in our society that is already bedeviled with pervasive corruption in high places?
There is hardly any day passing without report on one form of fraudulent act or the other appearing in newspapers in our country. On page 9 in The Punch newspaper edition of Tuesday, April 19, 2011, the freezing, by EFCC, of an account of N6.4billion operated by an unregistered company, Digital Tolls Limited with links to a former works minister was reported. The report further added the sum of Nl0 billion was discovered to have been paid into the company’s account for purpose of constructing a bridge across River Benue at Bagana in Benue State.
On page 5 in the Nigerian Tribune newspaper of Thursday, April 21l, 2011, the three principal actors in the N5.2billion mind-boggling case in Rural Electrification Agency (REA), former House Committee Chairman on Power in the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, his counterpart in the Senate, Senator Nicholas Ugbane, and Hon. Jibo Mohammed were sternly cautioned by a Federal High Court in Abuja over the antics being employed by them to unnecessarily prolong their court trial. .
The bitter and inhuman experience that Hon. Dino Melaye and the very few members of the Intergrity Group in the House of Representatives suffered in the hands of their colleagues in the National Assembly coupled with a six-month suspension clamped on them under the leadership of the Speaker, Hon. Dimeji Bankole for blowing whistle on the various pickings that rocked the National Assembly, is no doubt akin to the unfortunate fate that befell Alhaji Abdullahi Tafida in the hands of PHCN.
It is high time, “Whistle Blowing’ was firmly entrenched in our Constitution as one of the fundamental human rights that should be enjoyed by all citizens in Nigeria but unfortunately, the cumbersome and stringent processes involved in amending the Constitution will pose a threat to this. However, all states’ Houses of Assembly including the Federal Capital Territory can still come to the rescue by taking the bull by the horn through the promulgation of a ‘Whistle Blowing’ Act in conjunction with a strong backing for whistle blowing in our system through amendment jointly by the Senate and the House of Representatives to the acts that set up the EFCC, ICPC and the Due Process.
By so doing, undue personal enrichment, mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds by office holders both in the public and the private sectors of our economy would not only be checked but totally eliminated in the long run. Also, accountability and prudent management of public funds at all levels of governance in Nigeria would gradually become a norm in our society.
• Odunayo lives in Mopa, Kogi State.