We are dying of hunger, say retired Lagos teachers
Some retired workers from the Lagos State Ministry of Education have lamented the delay in the payment of their pensions.
The former teachers said more than two years after retirement, they had yet to receive any communication from the government over their entitlements.
They said while some of their colleagues had died without getting any payment, others were sick and lacked adequate medical care.
The retirees spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were afraid of intimidation.
A former primary school head teacher said all required documents for the processing and payment had been submitted.
She said, “I was a headteacher in a primary school before I retired in 2017. Till now, I have not received anything. All the documents they asked us to submit preparatory to our retirement were submitted. We were told that they had paid up till 2015. When will it get to us? Is it when we die and cannot eat the fruit of our labour? ”
Another retiree lamented that some pensioners lacked funds for basic necessities and had turned beggars.
“I also left service in 2017. Things are tough for many of us. For me, I have children who meet some of my needs. But what do we do about those who don’t have anything to rely on? Some have died of hunger, while many cannot even raise money to buy drugs.
“I served for 35 years. You can imagine someone who was getting paid for those years and for over two years has not received anything. How will such a person cope?” she said.
Another retiree, who also left service in 2017, said she hoped she would receive her entitlements while alive.
She lamented that life had been difficult for her family.
A former principal, who retired in 2015, however, told our correspondent that she received her pension entitlements in 2018.
She said retirees in her group embarked on “marathon prayers and fasting” before they got their payment “early.”
The sexagenarian said, “Those of us who retired in 2015 had to ask for divine intervention. It was sometime in 2018 that I got paid.
“The explanation our Pension Fund Administrators gave us was that our money was with the Lagos State Government. Our contributory pensions were remitted to our PFAs after April 2007. But the PFAs will not start paying when you retire until the government credits their accounts with their own part of the payment.
“Whenever we asked the government what was happening, they told us to wait for our bond. It was the day that Lagos State called us to come for our bond that we knew we were close to collecting our money.
“When they give you the bond certificate, you will submit it to your PFA, which will then add the value of the bond to the contributory pension. The result will be forwarded to the National Pensions Commission for processing.
“Based on a template, they will tell you the amount you can collect as a lump sum. That amount would be paid with the accumulated pensions from the date of your retirement. After that, you will start collecting the monthly pension.”
PUNCH Metro gathered that the hardship being suffered by retirees in Lagos made the group form the Lagos State Association of Retirees and PFA Pensioners.
During a meeting with the House of Assembly Committee on Establishment, Training, Pension and Public Service on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, the Chairman of the group, Michael Omisande, lamented that retirees were going through tough times.
“…those who retired from 2016 till date have yet to receive a penny for the past three years. It is very pathetic for retirees not to collect anything and there is no medical treatment for them for those three or four years. This act has resulted in making retirees beggars, sick, homeless, debtors and useless in their communities. Many of us have died as a result of the delay in payment.
“We met with the government delegation led by the Head of Service on February 11, 2019, where we tabled our grievances. At that meeting, we suggested to the government to find funds at all cost to pay, with or without bailout as we know that Lagos State is richer than 33 states put together in the federation. We are also the richest in terms of IGR. Treatment of retirees in Lagos State should be used as a parameter for others in the federation. We should be seen living a healthy life.
“At the February meeting, we advised the government to pay within two months; the two months have expired while they have yet to pay 2016 retirees. As senior citizens who laboured to build the state to this level, we do not want to be pushed to the wall, as a hungry man is an angry man. As a matter of urgency, we need our money; we are dying,” he said.
According to Omisande, the group had observed that for the government to pay 2016 retirees only, it needed N15bn.
He added that at the rate of N1bn per month which the state currently pays retirees in the state, it would take 15 months to complete the payment for 2016 retirees alone.
“It is a very wrong approach. In the area of health, the government has neglected retirees totally. We appreciate the free medical policy made for retirees, but it is on paper alone. It is not working at all as there are no drugs and medical personnel are not being monitored,” he added.
Omisande urged the Assembly to increase the budgetary allocation to the Lagos State Pension Commission to enable the directorate to pay backlog of entitlements.
The President of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Bunmi Ogunkolade, appealed to the state government to pay the entitlements as a matter of urgency.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, asked the retirees to be patient.
“The payment of 2016 retirees is ongoing now. Payment of 2017 retirees will commence once it is concluded. Those who joined the government after 2007 when the Contributory Pension Scheme began, are paid a month after retirement. This is because the state fully funds its contribution to the scheme. Other pre-2007 pension schemes are being paid in arrears. Let me assure you that the 2017 batch will be treated very soon,” he said in a text message.
Credit: The Punch