On the 4th of January 2013, most National Newspapers were awash with news of protesting retirees of Nigerian Postal Service [NIPOST] over delay in payment of their pension arrears. They believed the Postmaster General of the Federation has refused to pay them their retirement entitlement- pension.
Nigerians will agree with this writer that for quite some time now the vexed issue of pension has been at the front burner of national discourse. Currently, the National Assembly is at loggerhead with the Chairman of Pension Taskforce Team Mr. Rasheed Maina, over alleged missing pension funds. The point being made here is that the issue of pension funds is beyond the Postmaster General of the Federation and indeed, heads of parastatals as well as cabinet Ministers. Without doubt, the problem of pension is the exclusive preserve of the following Federal Government Establishments: The Head of Service, Accountant General of the Federation’s Office and The Ministry of Finance.
The responsibilities of NIPOST and indeed other establishments in Nigeria as far as the matter of pension is concerned; started and ended with ascertaining of the number of retirees as well as their year of retirement, and forwarding their files to the Head of Service for action. Any other matter[s] concerning pension is clearly not the responsibility of the Federal Government Establishments. The questions here are; what is the motive behind the coordinated protest in some States against PMG of NIPOST? Is it that the Protestants are not abreast of extant government policy, and who the first responders are on pension matters? Could it be that the pension issue is only used as a ploy to serve interest[s]? Who orchestrated this clear misinformation that gave rise to the wide spread protest, despite the Security Challenges in the Country? Are they-the protesters oblivious of the process of pension payment in Nigeria? Supposing they are not sponsored, is it possible for the PMG to sit on their pension, considering the volatile nature of pension matter in Nigeria?
Perhaps it is pertinent to remind NIPOST pensioners that they are not the only federal retirees in Nigeria facing the problem of delay in pension payment. There are other Federal pensioners that have protested against non-payment of their pension in the past. They are also reminded that these other protesters went about their action in a civilized and result oriented ways. In essences they went to the appropriate authorities in the course of their protest. In recent history, retirees of Nigerian Telecommunication Limited [NITEL] embarked on strike to press home their demand for pension, in the process, they lay siege to the office of the Accountant General of the Federation for their money. Not too long ago, Federal retirees converged in Abuja and stormed the office of the Head of Service of the Federation to demand for payment of their pension arrears. Surely, the reason they approached the Head of Service for their money is basically the fact that it is the appropriate authority for pension payment. Again, these protesters did not stage protest at the Ministries and parastatals from where they were disengaged.
Now, going by what the spokesman of the retirees said, one will be tempted to conclude that the sponsor[s] of the group has different agenda altogether. According to the news, one Emmanuel Ojo, the leader of the group, accused the Accountant General and the PMG as being behind their problem. If Ojo’s claim is not mischief induced, why call for the removal the PMG when it is clear that the PMG is not responsible for pension payment?
It is now completely apparent that President Goodluck Jonathan was absolutely right when he said that the reason for Government’s slow pace in decision making is born out of the fact that he did not want to make mistakes in governance. There is no way anybody can fault President Jonathan on his style from the point of view of what the leadership of NIPOST retirees is trying to achieve with pension protest. The pensioners have a genuine case, but the leadership took them to the wrong place to protest. Though, the current expedition of the sponsor[s] of NIPOST retirees protest is so amateurish that the least of a stupid person can clearly see the intention of the mischief makers. This is the crust of President Jonathan’s position.
As if the protest was coordinated, the retirees in both Ogun and Osun States were at their various capitals to press home their demands. While the leader of Edo State chapter of NIPOST attributed their problem to the refusal of PMG of NIPOST and the Accountant General to pay them their pension arrears; his counterparts in Osun and Ogun blamed their predicament on NIPOST management refusal to pay them as instructed by the Senate Committee on Pension Matters. Although, Ogun State NIPOST admitted that out of the 48 months arrears owed them, only 5 months had been paid.
By admitting payment of 5 months arrears Ogun State chapter of NIPOST has shown that the Postmaster General of NIPOST might have gone out of way to source money for pension payment. What this means is that NIPOST had utilized its internally generated revenue to pay pension arrears of its retired workers. If that is the case, should the PMG now be object of attack by the beneficiary of his magnanimity? To this writer the answer is NO. It is the opinion of this writer that the anger of NIPOST pensioners is misdirected. It is therefore advised that their anger/protest should be aimed at the appropriate authority. In this matter, the Postmaster General is as handicapped as they are.