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Retirees’ Entitlements: Matters Arising

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The issue of non-payment of pension and gratuity to government retirees years after retirement from active service has over the years been a subject of public discourse in the nation’s polity.

Perhaps moved by this touchy national issue, the former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide recently took a swipe at government at various levels over the mind-boggling issue. His words: “It is breach of contract for any government to deny its retirees the payment of pension and gratuity.”

He observed that since the nation’s economy is not static, it was necessary that pension and salary be seen as index link in view of the prevailing purchasing power, and called on government to fulfil its obligation to their workers by ensuring the early payment of pension and gratuity.

Not done with the issue, he intoned: “When a salary earner is retired and not paid his benefits, it means that he has been shortchanged,” and insisted that the benefit of the civil service is the security and the certainty it afford workers who expect that at the time of retirement, they are paid their benefits.

Sadly, an average retired Nigerian worker had over the years been literally wailing over the non-payment of his pension and gratuity. There were confirmed reports that some retired workers even died before their entitlements could be paid.

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

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

But it is rather unfortunate to hear 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 authorities 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.

That said, 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 the 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, appears to be the only sure way.

But when shall we stop to weep for the country’s retirees for not getting their entitlements years after retirement from active service? Their plights must end one day!

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Declare Your Assets Before Leaving Office, SERAP Tells Buhari …Seeks Prosecution Of High-Ranking Officials Over Corruption Cases

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to recommit to transparency, and demonstrate leadership by publicly committing to publish his asset declaration at the end of his tenure of office as well as encourage other cabinet members to do the same.
SERAP, also urged Buhari to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to take immediate steps to expeditiously, diligently, effectively and fairly prosecute all outstanding high-profile corruption cases currently being handled by his office.
Buhari had stated in his address on the occasion of the 62nd Independence Day anniversary of Nigeria,”I have promised to bequeath a country where all citizens have equal opportunities to achieve their lives. We have made significant progress in the eradication of deeply entrenched corruption that permeates all facets of our national development.”
But in an open letter dated October 1, 2022, by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Contrary to your Independence Day address, grand corruption has continued to deny millions of Nigerians equal opportunities.”
SERAP maintained that “Promoting transparency and combating corruption and ensuring full and effective respect for the rule of law would send a strong signal of your commitment to leave behind a legacy of transparency and accountability.”
According to SERAP, “millions of people are falling into preventable poverty, and live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity.”
The letter, read in part: “We hope that the next few months will show your administration’s commitment to consistently uphold transparency and accountability, in order to create a rule of law-friendly environment that would make Nigerians safer.
“There remain longstanding and grave concerns regarding widespread cases of grand corruption involving high-ranking government officials, and systemic corruption in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and persistent attacks on the rule of law.
“The reality today is that there is massive corruption at the highest level of government, and in ministries, departments and agencies, with a corrosive impact on Nigerians.
“The indicators of bad governance and mismanagement of the country’s natural wealth and resources should serve as proof of the need for your government to reinforce and recommit to the fight against corruption.
“According to our information, details of about 103 high-profile corruption cases being handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were reportedly made available in 2017 to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice upon request.
“Also, the case files of 15 high-profile corruption suspects are allegedly missing. The missing files are among the 23 cases reportedly sent by the now defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) in 2019 to Mr Malami, and include some charges of fraud involving some former governors and senators, non-declaration of assets and possession of foreign accounts cases.
“The rule of law crisis is illustrated by your government’s persistent failure to obey decisions of Nigerian courts; failure to consistently combat corruption and push for transparency in asset declarations by high-ranking government officials, and the failure to protect Nigerians’ right to life and security.
“There are several judgement that your government is yet to obey, including the judgement by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering your government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered to date, with details of the amounts recovered.
“Another judgement, by Justice Mohammed Idris(as he then was), ordered your government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered since the return of democracy in 1999.
“The judgement, by Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, ordered your government to publish details of payments of billions of naira to allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies since 1999.
“Your government is yet to obey the judgment by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo. The judgement ordered your government to challenge the legality of states’ life pension laws and to recover pensions already collected by ex-governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly.”

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Nigeria Experiencing Internal Colonialism, ASUU Laments

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said that Nigeria was currently experiencing internal colonialism.
The union made this disclosure, yesterday.
ASUU has been on strike since February this year.
The union noted that there was nothing to roll out the drums over in Nigeria as the country marked 62nd Independence Anniversary, last Saturday.
ASUU Chairman, University of Ibadan, Prof Ayoola Akinwole, who spoke, yesterday, explained that Nigeria needs true national followers and leaders.
He added that Nigeria has been piloted by internal colonisers who promote domination of their people.
Akinwole noted that Nigeria needs a leader who can deliver good governance and pursue ultimate happiness of the generality of Nigerians.
He said, “the very many people who witnessed colonial rule regret the current state of Nigeria.
“The way in which the ruling class has piloted the affairs of the country since 1960 is nothing but internal colonialism and domination.
“A cross-section of Nigerians will, no doubt, agree that there are no grounds for celebrations and fanfare, due to the deplorable state of affairs in the country.
“Nowhere is the decadence of an independent Nigeria more abysmal than in the education system”.

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Teachers Urge Buhari, Govs To Implement New Welfare Packages

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With about 72 hours to the celebration of the annual Teachers’ Day worldwide, teachers in the country have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors to implement the new welfare packages promised them two years ago.
According to the teachers, who spoke through their union, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the implementation of the packages would boost their morale and also help attract more quality hands to the teaching profession.
Speaking to newsmen, the General Secretary of the NUT, Dr Mike Ene, urged Buhari to quickly gazette the law that backed up the packages since hehad signed the bill into law.
“Education is on the concurrent list in the 1999 Constitution and the bill backing up the packages has since been signed into law by the President, but it must be gazetted. When that is done, state governors would not have any reason not to implement same. We implore the governors to buy into it.
“For now, it is the elongation of retirement age to 65 and service year to 40 that is being implemented by the Federal Government for its teachers. Regarding the Teachers Salary Scale, we gathered that it would come by way of allowances, different allowances for teachers that would eventually increase their take home.
“Already, Teaching Practice Allowance is being paid by TETFund to students in Colleges of Education and those studying education in the universities. Part of the packages is that a teacher with university degree will be placed on Grade Level 9 and the one with Master’s will be on Grade Level 12. That is an improvement on the previous placements,” he stated.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Lagos Council of the NUT, Comrade Hassan Akintoye, expressed disappointment that most state governments have not started implementing any aspect of the packages.
“Even if it is the extension in the length of service or retirement age, let them start with that. It has some positive implications for teachers. Assuming a teacher is on Grade Level 15 after 35 years of service, if the person’s service year is now extended by another five years, he could get to Level 16 or 17 and in a place like Lagos, and he could become a permanent secretary.
“We are not unmindful of the state of the economy and we are also empathising with them, but they just have to start implementing this policy from somewhere. The President made the pronouncement on October 5, 2020, and almost two years after, we are still marking time on it,” he opined.
In his remarks, the Registrar of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, urged teachers and other beneficiaries of the scheme not to entertain any fear about the implementation of the scheme.
“Though there has been some delay regarding the implementation of some aspects of the scheme, especially matters relating to finance. That is because of the global economic challenges that Nigeria is not exempted from. We at TRCN are involved in the conceptualization of the whole thing and I can assure you that it will be implemented. Let us just exercise patience. Everything is on course. It has not been abandoned.”
The new packages include introduction of a special salary scale, increase in retirement age from 60 to 65 years and length of service from 35 to 40 years.
Others are rural allowance for teachers posted to rural communities, increase in science allowance, peculiar allowance, automatic admission and tuition free schooling for kids of teachers at their place of work, automatic recruitment of B.Ed. graduating students, and payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students or education special allowance.
Education students in colleges and universities are also to enjoy special bursary awards, while TETFund will now be used to fund teaching practice, enhanced entry for graduating students into service, and introduction of special teachers’ pension scheme, among others.

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