Rivers Retirees: Hope At Last?

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Hope and good times seem to be on the horizon for retirees of the Rivers State Civil Service. This follows the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike’s approval for the pension benefits to 800 retirees in the state to be paid. While the 800 retirees are the first batch of those enlisted and have completed their biometric verification, other batches will follow soon.
According to the Director-General of the State’s Pension Board, Mr Ijeoma Samuel, at a one-day stakeholders’ meeting last week, the gesture is part of measures by the State Government to commence implementation of the State Pension Reform Law No. 4 of 2019, as amended.
The 2019 Pension Reform Law commenced on May 31, 2019 and has a three year window. It exempts all employees in the State’s Public Service, who are to retiree from service before May 31, 2022 from the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
Indeed, retirees in the State are long overdue for a sort of elixir. This is because most civil servants, who retired from service since 2015, have neither received their gratuity nor monthly pension, which they have looked forward to after 35 years of service to the state.
Though the hiccups in disbursing retirees’ entitlements may not have been due to government’s unwillingness to pay more than issues of red-tape and government’s determination to clean up the system, retirees in the state have undoubtedly been at the receiving end. In fact, they have been at the wrong end of the stick and groaned under immeasurable yoke.
That is why we are happy that at last, light has appeared at the end of the tunnel. While we laud Governor Wike’s approval and his administration’s readiness to commence the implementation of the State Pension Reform Law, it is imperative that the process does not suffer disruption of any kind.
Now that retirees are set for a new lease of life in Rivers State, no effort should be spared to ensure that the pension scheme does not suffer from any hangover.
We think that the implementation of the Pension Reform Law is a positive development that will help ameliorate the plight of retirees by not only facilitating their dues and emoluments, but also by making the process of verification less cumbersome.
The era of waiting for ages before a retiree, who used his or her productive years in service to the state, is given attention and what is due him should be in the past.
Before now, many retirees go through grueling experiences before getting their dues. While some get short-changed, others even die in the process of chasing their gratuities and pension.
While we commend Governor Wike’s administration for efforts to end the suffering of the state’s retirees, we also urge civil servants to be in tune with the pension law to ensure that they do the needful to ensure that they get their entitlements with less stress.
Moreover, we expect that the doors would not be shut against those who, due to one reason or another fail to undergo the biometric verification exercise as at when due.
We also urge the State Pension Board to ensure that all retirees enlisted in subsequent batches are handled without delay. More importantly, the Board should take steps to see that all Civil Servants that fall under the three year exemption window of the Pension Law exit under the Defined Benefit Scheme. Also, the monthly 7 1/2 per cent deductions should be stopped forthwith, while all the contributions they have made under the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, be refunded by the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).
It is expected that with the coming into effect of the State Pension Reform Law and commencement of payment to retirees in the State, Civil Servants in the state would now look forward to retirement with less trepidation. Retirement would now be a period to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour rather than a death sentence.