By NBF News
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From Ondo State, recently, came cheering news of exemplary conduct of 12 retired public servants that is worthy of applause. The retirees, who noticed about N5 million overpayment in their pensions arrears, promptly returned the excess to government coffers.

This singular act, at this time of economic depression, rightly earned them recognition from the state government, which celebrated their good conduct at a ceremony during which they were presented with plaques and gifts by the state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ranti Akerele, praised the retirees for exhibiting a high level of integrity. He explained that they were honoured by the government to showcase them as positive role models for the younger generation. We join the Ondo State government in applauding the behaviour of the retirees. We acclaim them as men and women of honour for resisting the temptation to keep money that had been inadvertently paid to them. This action is particularly striking, happening at this time when finances of many Nigerians are in the doldrums.

The country needs more of such people to show the youths that it is possible for Nigerians to exhibit such praiseworthy conduct, even at this period of economic malaise. Mimiko is right to appreciate the sterling conduct of these pensioners. But, whatever the government has done to appreciate them should not end there. Those who are still physically and mentally fit among them can be engaged in mentoring activities through social service groups in state schools.

They can also be charged with responsibilities that demand the highest levels of probity and integrity. These, and other ways of underscoring the importance of their commendable conduct, should be designed by the government to ensure that their action has a lasting impact on young Ondo State citizens. These former civil servants are exceptional citizens who are needed to continue to show examples of good citizenship to Nigerians. We cannot over-praise them, because it is not everyday that we find something to celebrate in the conduct of our people.

Although it is the celebration of these citizens that matters more than whatever gifts are given to them, we advise that whatever the government has done to appreciate them should be weighty enough. The symbolism of this celebration is important, but for the retirees, a handsome material gift will make a great impact on their lives so that other citizens can actually see that it pays to be honest. If Ondo State has a roll of honour for those who have served the state creditably, these citizens should have a place on such roll for demonstrating honesty in practical terms for all to see.

This incident should serve as a reminder to government on similar conduct by a certain retired staff of the Federal Ministry of Communications, Pa Okechukwu Azubuike Odiari, who expended his personal funds to travel from Onitsha to Abuja to return a similar over-payment of his pension arrears to government coffers, but was not even given a proper receipt or letter acknowledging the refund. This man should also be recognized and celebrated at the national level.

The conduct of the retirees has rekindled hope that all is not lost for Nigerians. It has highlighted one of our people's redeeming features, that we are basically honest and decent folk, but for the vicissitudes visited on the nation by incompetent leadership. The overpayment matter in Ondo State should also be a reason for government to tidy up its accounting processes to make sure such incidents do not happen again.

The Ondo retirees have shown a good example by returning money over-paid to them. But, can we vouch that there are no thousands of other retirees and workers that have not returned such overpayment? The accounting processes should be fine-tuned to prevent incidents like this. On the whole, we congratulate the retirees on their recognition. They should keep up the exemplary conduct and remain role models to help drum it into the ears of all Nigerians that honesty, indeed, is the best policy.