By Georges Macnobleson-Idowu
Retirement and pension are obviously two privileges that so many working class people eagerly look up to.
While some people are fortunate to have gotten good and sustainable retirement and pension packages, others are not particularly lucky. And these unlucky lots are majorly a large chunk of the Nigerian masses, who often toil and labour all through their prime and at old age get nothing to show for it.
The fortunate ones, on the other hands, enjoy all the luxuries in and out of active service, and are often chanced to help themselves by embezzling all they could to secure their old age and retirement, including that of their yet unborn generation. They know that with the way the country’s pension scheme is structured, the packages do not ensure a sustainable retirement for anybody.
These people, who are majorly public office holders, representatives and political appointees, deliberately pay themselves handsomely, if not criminally, in and out of service.
In office, they get all sorts of benefits, ranging from security vote, furniture allowance, vehicle and maintenance allowance, wardrobe allowance, sitting stipend, estacode, Christmas and Salah break payments, to feeding and housing allowances, amongst others. And while going out of office, after four or eight years’ service, they pay themselves millions, if not billions of naira, as severance allowance and also approve several illegal and immoral benefits for themselves and their families after service.
But this same people through the existing retirement and pension scheme restricted the masses of the Nigerian workforce to just gratuity and a 25 per cent of their pension savings even after spending over 30years in service. This is particularly worse for those in private employments, especially one-man businesses. Many of those who retired under private employments do not have gratuity at all, and the pension they had toiled for all their lives is also denied them.
Why did I say so? Take for instance, a man who had worked all his life in a private company, where there’s no gratuity and retirement benefits. His only hope is therefore the pension he had saved with the pension administrator for years. But rather than been given his entire due and savings or even half of it, the government made it in such a way that he could only draw 25 per cent of his total savings provided he had clocked the age of 50. But in a situation he clocked 50 and still in active service, his total savings is divided into two and be further invested by his pension administrator. The question here is to what extent is these investments. Perhaps, until he dies and can no longer use his funds.
For me, this is nothing, but a big scam that the Nigerian masses have allowed to endure too long. It’s a clear situation of “monkey dey work baboon dey chop” It’s a deliberate ploy to throw retirees into a second slavery and continuous exploitation, even after retirement.
Let’s imagine that a retiree’s total pension savings was just three million naira in the span of 35 years. The existing pension scheme only allows the retiree, provided he had clocked 50, to draw just 25 per cent of the total amount. Now 25 per cent of three million naira is just seven hundred and fifty thousand naira. 750 thousand naira in this present day economy is obviously nothing to write home about. It cannot be used for anything meaningful. This is why most retirees usually finished spending the money even before they started spending at all. And to this vein, they often end up becoming liabilities to their children, if not their extended families. Take or leave it, nothing kills pensioners faster than lack of money out of active service. The lack of money usually makes them become older than their age. They later fall sick and die. To me, the present pension scheme is like telling the country’s retirees to go home and die, nothing more.
One would think that the federal government would consider reviewing the existing pension law, especially now that it’s making so much efforts to diversify the economy, and laying so much emphasis on skill acquisition, entrepreneurship, vocational training and self-reliance. It follows that there’s an urgent need for the pension act or law in the country to be reviewed. The review, amongst others, would allow retirees draw at least half of their total pension savings, if not the entire savings, as soon as they retired.
This is important because it would expand and strengthen the retirees purchasing and investment power and also allow them to invest their pension benefits on meaningful entrepreneurship ventures and some small scale businesses that could sustain them. To this end, the government would have created more jobs and wealth in the society through these pensioners rather creating further liabilities and burdens on the economy. If not for anything, at least, this would guarantee employment for the retirees’ direct children.
The annoying thing about all these, is that most times while the retirees were suffering due to the peanut handed out to them in the name of 25 per cent of their total pension savings, the pension administrator continues to trade with the about 75 per cent savings that is remaining and usually makes huge profits without any interest accruing to the owner of the fund. This is in spite of all profits that had initially been made with the same savings while the retirees were in active service.
Georges Macnobleson-Idowu is a professional journalist and a result driven media content analyst. He writes from Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.