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Weeping For The Nation’s Retirees

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Apparently worried by public outcry, the Obasanjo administration established the National Pension Commission (PENCO), with an Act by the National Assembly, in order to give legal teeth to the commission. This was greeted with applause by the general public, especially the retirees.

Reason? In the past, an average retired Nigerian worker literally wailed over the non-payment of his pension and gratuities. There were confirmed reports that some retired workers even died before their entitlements could be paid.

Indeed, the contributions of Nigerian workers and employers to the contributory pension scheme now stand at N847 billion, according to confirmed report from the pension commission.

Presenting a lecture entitled “Poverty Reduction, Social Security and Pension Reform in Nigeria,” Dr. Kabir Ahmed, Director-General of the commission said the figure was the accumulated contributions as at March last year, and expressed happiness that with the pension scheme, the country has been able to build a pool of long-term financial resources.

His words: “Pension funds play a key role in mobilising long-term funds which have contributed significantly in providing the base for capital formation investment that could spur economic growth in Nigeria”. He, however, noted that the resources (funds) so far mobilised were still in search of attractive investment opportunities.

But it is rather unfortunate that some states in the country are yet to implement the laudable scheme in spite of the awareness campaigns mounted by the federal authorities, thus hanging the fate of their retired staff in the balance. This is sad to say the least.

Worse still, a section of the private sector had also reportedly refused to implement the National Pension Scheme, for some inexplicable reasons, an attitude that is giving concern to the management of the commission, in view of the anticipated  plights of the retired staff of such firms.

It is, therefore, imperative to ask the federal government to  wade into the issue and prevail on such defaulting state governments and firms to implement the pension scheme, in order to lay a good foundation for their retired staff.

Agreed, there had been fears over the ‘safety’ of the funds so far contributed to the scheme. But the provisions of the Pension Act, squarely allay such fears, especially the various levels of risks involved in the management of the contributed funds.

Again, the federal authorities should rise to the occasion and direct some of the contributors (state governments) to remit promptly, their contributions to the  contributory pension scheme. That way, the future of the retired staff would be assured.

Suffice it to say that one sure way to implement the National Pension Scheme is for the National Assembly to step into the matter. This, it could do, by directing the committee concerned to work with the  management of the National Pension Commission.

That way the committee would be able to identify the defaulting state governments, as well as a section of the private sector; and thereafter roll out sanctions against such recalcitrant states and firms.

The future of the Nigerian retired worker must be protected and assured, no matter whose ox is gored. Yes, time has come when a retired worker should smile home rather than cry home. The contributions by employers of labour to the pension  scheme, appear to be the only sure way.

All said, but when shall we stop to weep for the nation’s retirees for not getting their entitlements, years after retirement from active service? Their plights must end one day in Jesus name. Amen.

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Substance Abuse Becoming Thing Of Concern -Odu

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Rivers State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ngozi Nma Odu, has lauded the important role pharmacists play in the wellbeing of the society.
Odu gave this commendation while playing host to members of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Rivers State Branch at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The deputy governor said while others are sleeping, pharmacists work hard “to ensure we all live in a better society, especially when you talk about the dangers of substance abuse.”
Odu stressed that, “It is really becoming a thing of great concern because of the level of children getting involved in this thing. It is even coming down to primary schools which now increases the burden of what you are doing, so we appreciate you for what you are doing for the society which we all are living in.”
The deputy governor extolled the lady pharmacists for the scholarship scheme they were sponsoring, noting that it was “amazing because when you change the narrative of somebody’s life, you become what they call a destiny helper.”
The deputy governor added, “So, for me, it is something I would encourage. Even the Bible says when you do it for them you have done unto God. It is a thing we get a lot of blessings out off, you may not see it now but some day it will definitely come.”
She expressed gratitude to them for their support for the Fubara-led administration which according to her has continued to spur them into action.
“Let me thank you for upholding the governor and myself in prayers, because without prayers we won’t be here, many people have prayed and God has heard, please do not stop, even for good governance, we need God to grant us the wisdom and knowledge of what to do”, she said.
In her remarks, Chairman of the Rivers State Branch of Association of Lady Pharmacists of Nigeria, Ebelechukwu Odom, said they were at the Government House to identify with the Governor Fubara-led administration in the ongoing restructuring of the state, and pledged their allegiance and unflinching support to the administration.
She assured that they would utilize the competences of Lady Pharmacists in Rivers State and synergize with partners for improvement in health, education, research development and socio-economic wellbeing of humanity through relevant and appropriate interventions, projects and programmes.

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RSG Denies Rumours Of Cholera Outbreak In Soku

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The Rivers State Government says it is not aware of any cholera outbreak in Soku community in the Akuku Toru Local Government Area of the State.
This was contained in a statement made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt by the State Ministry of Health.
According to the statement signed by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Adaeze Chidinma Oreh, the clarification was necessary following numerous enquiries from the media over a purported outbreak of cholera in Soku community.
The statement read in part, “The Rivers State Ministry of Health has received numerous enquiries from the Press regarding an alleged outbreak of cholera in Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area.
“Public health teams dispatched to investigate these alleged cases and deaths have so far received no confirmation of such.”
While describing cholera as a waterborne infectious disease, the commissioner said that the disease is notifiable, warranting escalating reports from disease surveillance and notification officers at the community level.
The statement clarified that the ongoing medical outreach in Soku community is in no way related to any outbreak of cholera.
“Outreaches have always been a way of getting accessible health care to underserved and vulnerable population, however, all such outreach activities must be conducted with approval from and in collaboration with the State Ministry of Health and as such no entity should be conducting outreaches outside the coordination of the ministry”, it warned.
The ministry further said that all infectious diseases of this nature are reported, managed and escalated by the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
Dr. Oreh said the statement should serve as a strong warning to anyone conducting or planning health activities without due recourse to the Rivers State Ministry of Health.
She added that any such activities found to be carried out without the knowledge and clearance of the State Ministry of Health will be fully investigated and dealt with in order to ensure the protection of the lives of the people.
“Therefore, the general public and members of the Press are advised to disregard the rumours making the round on an ongoing outbreak of cholera and the death of some citizens of Soku community in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State as it is presently unfounded, misguided and capable of causing panic amongst citizens and residents.
“The general public is thus urged to remain calm and rest assured that the Rivers State Ministry of Health will continue to be a veritable source of public health information in the state”, the statement concluded.

John Bibor

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Bill On State Police Scales Second Reading

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The House of Representatives, yesterday, passed for second reading a bill to provide for the establishment of state police in the country.
Sponsored by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Benjamin Kalu and 14 others, the bill seeks to alter the relevant Sections of the 1999 Constitution to pave the way for states to establish their own policing outfits.
As lawmakers took turns to contribute to the debate on the floor of the House during yesterday’s plenary, Kalu who stood in for the Speaker, Abbas Tajudeen, urged members to look beyond political ambitions and think about the safety of Nigerians and Nigeria.
Also speaking, Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos) said, “It is the job of the police to maintain law and order. We have a population of over 200m people but we have a police strength that is less than 400,000. State Police should be created to address the internal security challenges of Nigeria.”

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