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DAYS OF AGONY FOR PENSIONERS IN DELTA

By NBF News

Some of the Pensioners on Queue
It is believed that one should count oneself blessed when one works and retires from work, ostensibly to enjoy the remaining part of his or her life. But the reverse seems to be the case with most retirees in the country who hardly eke out a living due to government inability to pay them what is their due after they had retired.

The plight of retirees becomes more worrisome when one considers their sufferings anytime they are invited by the Federal Pay Office to the various screening centres across the country to collect their pay. Most of them pass through very excrutiating pains during the exercise, that one wonders whether it is a crime to work and retire.

Pensioners from Delta State, recently went for screening as a prelude to the collection of their pay at the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) owned, Labour House, located off Okpanam Road, Asaba, where the following revealing report by BUCHY ENYINNAYA who interacted with some of the retirees and others involved in the exercise took place. Below is an excerpt of the interaction with some of the retirees. Mr. Okoh Augustine Ajih from Ossissa , Ndokwa East local government area of Delta State was the first on the interaction list.

What's your name Sir
My name is Okoh Augustine Ajih, from Ossissa , Ndokwa East local government area of Delta State

What are you doing here at Labour House, Asaba?
I came from Ossisa for screening being conducted for those of us who have not got our Federal pay, Federal cheque.

Where did you work before your retirement?
I worked with Post Primary Education Board.
How old are you Sir?
I was born 12th December, 1946.
When did you retire?
I retired in 2001 . It's almost 10 years now.
Where were you coming from carrying this keg, and other items?

I'm just leaving Labour House.
What's happening at Labour House?
They called us for screening.
Who called you?
People from Abuja Pension Unit
So, what is the outcome of your answering their call?

They asked us to come back again
How long have you been here?
Since two weeks , I have been coming. Today makes it the sixth time I have come here. And we have been asked to come again , those of us from Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, to come Thursday and Friday, for the same exercise.

Why have they not attended to you so far?
That one is not known to me.
So, how do you feel about the whole exercise?
Infact, the exercise is poor. It is lump exercise . We are dumped like lumps.

You said you have been coming for two weeks, how have you been feeding ?

We manage.We borrow. We buy credit from some good sellers.Ok,thank you.

60 year old retired princpal, Lady Odibeli who described the exercise as horrible and frustrating told Daily Sun, I am retired and for the past four years, I have not been paid my Federal share. If not for the State government that pays its own share, we would have been in trouble. Even this year, we have been here twice . And the horrible thing is that we have been here since last week, no headway. My form has not been signed. Some people don't even have forms and they are telling us now that there are no forms.It is frustrating that after serving the government we are frustrated. I don't want to curse those people but they should be very careful.

I retired on the highest grade as a Secondary school Principal, merit grade,the highest grade as a Principal.We are suffering. I have not been paid my Federal share. How do I live? I have no other source. My children who have finished from the Universities do not have jobs. They are still hanging around , no jobs.How do I live? My husband retired six years ago, and nothing paid to him. Uptill now, two of us have not received anything from the Federal share.Just the help of God and the State government.

78 year old Ogbueshi Lawrence Ogwuda from Okpanam,who described the situation at the screening centre as chaotic also told Daily Sun,I retired about 27 years ago. I worked with the former P&T(Communications), now NITEL. Asked what the situation was like since he came to Labour House to collect his pension, he said, 'the situation is very chaotic. very verybad. Since last week, I have been coming here.The same last week , I was hospitalised because of the rush.

What did you is the reason for the situation here?

I heard that there was no arrangement. During our time, a week before you carry out any project, you have to make a survey,You plan and you consider the peoiple . You make provisions for them . There is communication gap between us and the Pension office and between the Pension Office here now and Abuja.. As you can see us we don't know where to go .Those people standing there, are standing at the wrong place.When they finally get to the end, they will tell them , no this is not the right place . You can imagine what that means after standing for so long.Further conversation with him went thus:You retired early to have stayed 27 years after retirement, considering your looks .

Yes I started working 1952 at the age of 18 and retired in 1985 at 69.

How has life been with you since your retirement?
I have good children.And I saved when I was working, so I have buildings . I live within the capital territory. I have tenants. So, that is one of the problems. No co-ordination What should be done is that there should be proper co-ordination.

On his part, Mr. Boniface Sunday Okeke Nwajiagu who retired as a teacher at Ika Grammar School, Agbor, who said he was not able to achieve anything within the days he went for the screening, called on the Federal govcernment to adopt the system of zoning so as to make it less cumbersome for the pensioners and even staff of the Pensioners' Board.

Why are you here, Sir, ?
It's a normal exercise after three or four years . Government use to call us for this partially , unplanned screening. Why we say it is unplanned is this , you can see , I am now coming from Agbor, because they stayed in Agbor without achieving much . They stayed in Agbor for three days without achieving much. You know they finished from Asaba here and went to Agbor for the pensioners.They were going from zone to zone . We were happy about it because the other time, they carried all of us to Asaba and one or two died there during the verification and clearance in 2008 or so. But we now saw that they are improving by spreading it across, going to several zones .

We praise the government for that. But now, this time they didn't assess what it would take the stations and so, after three days, they couldn't attend to upto 30 percent of the people, so they brought all of us here . We are praying that they should go back because the Federal government has extended it.It could have ended by today but it has been extended to 18th July. But all the same, no matter what they do , they could have called us zone by zone . In which case if it is time for a particular zone people from other zones would not be there, but this one, they made it for every person within the State . and then couldn't achieve much.

So, when did they tell you to come back?
They said all Agbor zone should go now and return when our leaders would tell us .They are not sure.

What would you say you achieved since you came here?

I didn't achieve anything.
Speaking with Mr. Ikede Isaiah from Ukala Okpunor in the Oshimili North local govt area of Delta State, he also told Daily Sun,'We are here for screening. The Federal staff are here to conduct screening for pensioners. Those who did not get their benefits and those who have but they were not paying. So, how long have you been here?Since Friday, last week. Some came here last Monday. But I don't think the exercise would finish before 3.00p/m .

When they invited you did they tell you the number of days you would stay for the exercise?

No, they didn't.What did you hear? They said three or four days. But it's going to last more than that.

Asked how he had been faring since the time he had been in Asaba for the screening, he said,'It's terrible. My situation is even better because I have a relation here. Think of those who don't have any relation around.Some are paying upto one thousand Naira every day for transport alone . Some came from Warri , and several other places,here in Delta.He was also asked:

So what's the position of things now?
We don't know yet. I can't say. And there is nothing I can say that they said. But some collected their cheques yesterday. And I don't know when I would collect . And I have no hope of collecting it today or even tomorrow.

How do you feel about the whole thing? Well, it's a waste.

Why do you say it's a waste?
I don't know maybe the management is not doing what they should do.

A secondary school teacher, Miss Ngozi Osakwe on her part told Daily Sun, I brought my father for pensioners' screening.We have been coming here for the past two weeks .We were here yesterday and throughout yesterday and we are here again today.

What have you achieved coming here?
We have not achieved any favourable result any way. In the sense that the pension workers don't come on time, and when they come on time , they are not always comported to do their work.And before you see them coming together to even talk to the old pensioners, it takes them a lot of time . At the end of the day, you see that nothing is done.

Has your father been paid?
No
And what is the situation like ?
The situation now is that his image has been captured, and we have been asked to go and register for cheque.

What forms are you filling for all this?
The form is Federal Civil Service Pension Biodata form . After filling the form , you go for capturing, then you go to register for the collection of your cheque.

You are on the final stage now, do you have any hope of collecting yours today?

I don't really know because I have not regisrered for it.

Since you have been here, how many casualties have you seen?

Yes, About four.
What type of casualties?
Of fainting. Old people fainting, some of them shivering and etc.

And what was done to save them?
It's old pensioners around that came to their rescue. But nobody died. No ambulance, Nothing . No medical care,

And concerning feeding?
We feed ourselves. We transport ourselves risking our lives from our various villages down here.

Another retiree, Mr. Obi Augustine also spoke: We are here to make things move well that was why we were organising every Saturday, yet the thing did not flow. I am one of the people . I am affected. I am even among the newly retired people,who have never received, that is the non-pay-roll pensioners. On how he feels about the situatio, he said, the situation is not ok. No one is happy to see things happening this waywhere there are involved . They back some , they carry some. very many aged people. These people cannot under go this rigour and come back another time . Many may die. No one has died yet but all depending on the area one is.Even now, someone fell down from the chair, and people were laughing.

I was telling them, carry him up.They went to carry him up.So, there are many, many casualties. This place is filled with people and you know you can't be here and also be there. What is happening the other place, you may not know.

What should be done? This is a computer age.When all these things are computerised, we don't need to come and line up again. You press the computer, call up the names, And serve the people. If not ,many people would die before their payment.

A female student who simply identified herself as Maureen from the Delta State University, Oleh Campus, also spoke with Daily Sun:

In what way can you describe the situation here?
It's pathetic in the sense that these are people that have toiled for Nigeria , people who have done their best for the country, So, we expected that the Federal government in their own sense ought to have carried out the exercise in a better way.If it can be done local government by local government, it will make it easier. This idea of the Federal Pensions officers doing it and every retiree in the State coming to Asaba is not good.Some of the retirees who do not have any person here and who do not have money to stay in hotels sleep in the open air or on the corridors of buildings.Apart from that, can you imagine that in this mammoth crowd, we have only five computers from what. I heard.And these computers at times break down, They start fixing them again, and they start all over again.So, if they can employ more staff and also do it local government by local government,it will be better.