By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
FOR Nigerian pensioners, it will be unfair for the government to approve a new minimum wage for workers, without doing the same for retired workers who served the country meritoriously in different capacities.
*A cross section of Pensioners at a forum organized by Trustfund Pensions Plc, in Lagos
They believe that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, after all, everybody in the country needs money to care for his or her needs.
The senior citizens operating on the aegis of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, pleaded with the Federal Government to make provision for a uniformed national minimum pension as it considers the national minimum wage for workers.
NUP agitation is on the wake of the submission of the Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee report to President Muhammadu Buhari last week. The committee headed by the former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Ms. Ama Pepple had recommended N30,000 as the new minimum wage.
Briefing in Abuja, the pensioners said a national minimum pension had become imperative following the current economic reality in the country as some retired workers who received a paltry N1,000 could no longer take care of their families.
According to the NUP President, Dr. Abel Afolayan flanked by the National Secretary of Federal Civil Service Pensioners, Christian Azunna, senior citizens who had served the country meritoriously deserved respect and honor.
Afolayan said, “The main thrust of this press conference is on the need to press for the consideration and approval of the National Minimum Pension for Pensioners by the federal government alongside the ongoing negotiation for the approval and implementation of a National Minimum Wage for Nigerian workers.
“Suffice it to say our request is in line with the provisions of section 173 (3) and 210 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which unambiguously states that ‘pension shall be reviewed every five years or together with any Federal Civil Service salary reviews, whichever is earlier’.
“The last pension review was in July 2010. The next one in line with the provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) was due in July 2015.
“Despite our efforts and submissions, nothing has been done in compliance with the above constitutional provisions. This is the reason why the union has been very vocal and unrelenting in restating its position on the call and demand for a new minimum pension alongside the ongoing negotiation for a new minimum wage which by all indications will soon be implemented by the federal government.
“It is, therefore, our humble request, in accordance with the above constitutional provisions that a uniformed national minimum pension be approved for Nigerian pensioners to be the same as any minimum wage.
“In other words, whatever amount is approved as the minimum wage for workers should also apply as minimum pension for pensioners. We believe that whatever is good for the goose is also good for the gander as both workers and pensioners go to the same market for their daily needs.
“With the present economic situation in the country, it is unacceptable and in fact, inhuman for a pensioner to earn less than N30, 000 which is not even enough to cater for his needs.”
Apart from the call for a new pension wage, the senior citizens also lamented nonpayment of the balance of 12 months arrears of the 33 percent pension increase of 2010, saying many beneficiaries of the pension increase had died.
Dr. Afolayan said, “Needless to say the payment of the balance of these arrears is long overdue. We had made several submissions and appeals at different fora to the federal government through PTAD for this payment but to no avail.
“The leadership of the union, therefore, can no longer contain the anger of its members who have been spoiling for a showdown with the federal government over the nonpayment.
“Consequently, and having been pushed to the wall, we are compelled to issue a 21-day ultimatum to PTAD in compliance with the extent labor laws after which if no payment is made, Pensioners would embark on a protest to picket PTAD and other relevant offices connected with this payment.”