Gov Ugwuanyi Breaking The Jinx In Pensioners’ Welfare – By Chinedu Aroh
German new-historicist Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that: ‘I love
those who do not first seek behind the stars for a reason to go under
and be a sacrifice, but who sacrifice themselves for the earth, that
the earth may someday become the overman’s’. Nietzsche was invariably
defining a Superman.
In his views, such a man is always on a mission to break generational
jinxes. The man is a liberator, bringer of hope and connector to the
Up until the coming of Rt Hon Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as governor of
Enugu State, civil servants in the state who were on the verge of
retirement were like the Irish airman that foresaw his death in W.B.
Yeats’ classical poem. They dreaded retirement because of the pathetic
situations their colleagues who retired faced. But they must retire to
face the man-made karma awaiting them! It was so inhuman and piteous
that some retirees saw pensions and gratuities as fairytales. That was
the situation until the coming of Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
The governor came and saw the situation, and fought it to a total
standstill in the face of the nation’s recessed economy and the
consequent meager resources that accrue to the state from the
federation allocations. Today, the story has changed for the better.
I recall a certain pensioner in Udi Local Government Area, who, after
collecting her cheque for her pension arrears, broke into tears. I had
gone there under the auspices of the Enugu LGA News, a publication of
Enugu State Ministry of Local Government Matters. The frail woman
managed to utter to me: ‘Tell Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi that if I see him, I
will embrace him. He has breathed life into me anew.’ I indeed saw in
a woman a life come back.
The apparent interrogation is: why were the pensioners owed so much
both in gratuities and pension arrears before the coming of Gov
Ugwuanyi? I also recall that successive governments in the state had
excess funds to buy assorted cars for traditional rulers and local
government councilors in the state for luxuries. Although the gesture
was not undeserved, but one then imagines why the statutory
obligations of pensioners, who served the state with their hearts,
were not given the required priorities!
Welcome to the preposterous story: the last time gratuities were paid
in Enugu State was in 2001. By implications, from 2001 to 2016,
retirees wallowed in fantasies. May God grant the souls of those who
could not bear the trauma of this inhumanity joyous moments in the
Such was the situation when Dr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi climbed the rostrum.
Like the biblical messianic foray, he handed the state over to God.
When the Paris Club refund was paid to states across the federation,
Gov Ugwuanyi in his magnanimity and nature of always radiating with
compassion, doled out over N2bn to settle the payment of gratuities
and pension arrears of the state’s pensioners and those of local
governments, as well as primary school teachers. It spanned from 2001
to nearly 2006, thus breaking the jinx of the debt that had ossified
over the years. This year again, he has intervened with quite over
N300m to ameliorate the burdens of pensioners. That was how pensioners
in the state breathed life anew.
Although not all the pensioners have been settled, nonetheless there
are lessons to learn from the Gov Ugwuanyi example. It is the lesson
of love and sensitivity, and more importantly, prudence. Before
embarking on this daunting task, he conducted a biometric verification
exercise where each pensioner appeared for documentation, and
afterwards keyed into the pension database. This provided the Ugwuanyi
government the platform to obtain the actual number of the pensioners
in the state, and how much each of them was being owed. Aside this, he
merged all the pensioners in the state under one category. Hitherto,
pensioners were categorized into three batches alongside regular ones,
and they were being paid accordingly when funds were made available.
This practice brought about inequalities as it encouraged sharp
practices because everybody struggled to move from the batches to join
the regular pensioners.
The pension operations were therefore computerized, thus removing the
cumbersome nature of the pension administration in the state. This has
given a new lease of life to pensioners who today have seen light at
the end of the tunnel.
The crux of this piece is how to be compassionate to the plight of
pensioners the Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi way. It was not only Enugu State that
got the Paris Club refund from the federal government, but many states
chose to utilize their funds for other projects rather than providing
succour to the pensioners who already have no gravitas. Today, it is
only in Enugu State and probably Anambra State that pension issues are
still alive in the southeast region of the country. Checks at the
federal level will even burn the heart.
For the state’s civil servants [a discourse for another day], Gov
Ugwuanyi has also not failed even in the face of delayed federation
allocations to pay their salaries on the 25th of every month. That is
how to be a leader on a mission.
The contributory pension fund scheme which the federal government and
some agencies in the private sector have adopted, no doubt, is the
panacea for pension issues in Nigeria. Why civil servants at the state
and local government levels have shown cynicism over it remains a
mirage. No doubt, the failure of previous contributory fund schemes,
such as in the housing and health sectors, might be the reason. This
nonetheless calls for enlightenment campaign by concerned authorities
to make workers realize that the scheme is the only way out of the
present quagmire. Enugu State should key into this scheme because
after Gov Ugwuanyi’s administration, no one knows what is next. Again,
pundits have rightly asserted that the current pension scheme is not
sustainable in the long run.
Also recruitment at the local government level should be regularized.
The current trends where employment is seen as a charity should be
dissuaded. Workers should be employed as a result of necessity rather
than to show off. A situation where some local government workers have
no assigned duties but still get their salaries, allowances and
promotions is retrogressive in all ramifications.
This is the time to do this.
Aroh wrote from Keffi, Nasarawa State
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