SERAP Sues FG Over 'Inhuman Treatment Of Pensioners'

Listen to article

ABUJA, August 05, (THEWILL) - The Registered Trustees of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Federal Government to the Federal High Court in Ikeja arguing that, "Owing to the government’s failure to faithfully implement the Pensions Reform Act, several pensioners continue to have their internationally recognized human rights to life, to an adequate standard of living, to equality and non-discrimination, and to humane treatment violated, with impunity."

The organization told the court that, "Pensioners--men and women---have the same rights as everyone else: we are all born equal and this does not change as we grow older."

President Goodluck Jonathan, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; and the Minister of Internal Affairs are joined as Respondents in the suit.

The suit No FHC/IKJ/CS/69/2010 dated 5 August 2010, and brought pursuant to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, was filed by Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP Executive Director.

The organization said that, "Many pensioners continue to face stressful and inhuman conditions in an effort to collect retirement benefits, which is their just due. Despite the enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004, several pensioners throughout the country continue to suffer because of the government’s lack of political will; symptoms of the dysfunctional old pension regime characterized by structural defects, huge pension arrears and gratuities; poor funding, poor policy formulation and implementation, incorrect record – keeping; apathy to pension matters by those in the authority; and systemic corruption and fraud in the system."

"The Respondents have failed and/or neglected to monitor remittance of contribution to the workers' Retirement Saving Accounts (RSAs); and the activities of Underwriters; and have failed to implement the provisions of sections 173 and 210 of the 1999 Constitution, which make it mandatory for periodic review of pensions every 5 years or when the salaries of existing workers are reviewed," the organization stated.

The organization quoted one pensioner as saying that, "I worked with the Ministry of Finance for 35 good and meritorious years. It has been very hectic collecting entitlement every month. The Federal Government owes me 17 months harmonization arrears. I have been living at the mercy of God." Another pensioner said that, "I worked with the National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike, for 22 years. It has been very difficult collecting my entitlement every month. It has been long like that. I cope due to God’s glory." Another said that, "Life has not been easy after retirement because pensions are not paid regularly. We have arrears of so many years unpaid. Complaints of shortfall in payment have not been attended to."

"I worked in the Ministry of Information, Special Welfare, Youths and Sports. I retired in 1991. Since my retirement, it has been rough. I retired as deputy director on Level 16. I served Nigeria for 37 years. I have bitterness with my country," another pensioner told the organization.

"I served government for 22 years. The government owes me about 19 months. We are tired. Nigerians should please help us, the punishment is too much," another pensioner lamented. Another pensioner told the organization that, "I served for 35 years. The Federal Government is treating us like goats and cows; they are just pushing us up, down, here and there. They have forgotten that we are old people. Look at the list of our names posted on the wall, the character used in typing our names is too tiny; it is very difficult for us to see because most of us have lost our sight."

"A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the vulnerable sectors of the population are the true gold mines of a culture," the organization said.

"The National Pension Commission has confirmed that only 10 of the 36 states of the federation have fully aligned with the pension reform in the country. While many pensioners suffer to receive the benefits of their labor, the 469 members of the National Assembly have demanded for increase in their salaries to 47 million per House of Representatives member and N60 million per Senator per quarter. In the 2010 Appropriation Act the Respondents have budgeted N57 billion for the entertainment and N27 billion for traveling by members of the National Assembly. The Federal Government has just budgeted N6.6 billion for the celebration of the 50th Independence Anniversary Celebration on October 1, 2010," the organization also said.

"The Respondents have acted retrogressively. The failure to create conditions and provide sufficient resources for the implementation of the Pension Reform Act thereby exposing pensioners to poverty, degrading and inhuman treatment constitutes a violation of the obligation to use the maximum available resources to fulfill economic and social rights of the citizens", the organization further said

The organization is seeking among others that all Nigerian pensioners including those who retired from federal public service, are entitled to their human rights to life; to an adequate standard of living; to humane treatment and to guarantees of equality and non-discrimination, recognized by Articles 2, 3, 4, and 5, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 2, 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Articles 2, 6, 7, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.