AYODELE: DEATH ON A PENSIONS QUEUE
One sad incident, last week, brought into bold relief the sheer insensitivity of the government to the welfare of retirees and the need to design more humane ways of serving this vulnerable category of Nigerians
In Akure, the Ondo State capital, an 80-year old pensioner, Pa Olusa Ayodele, slumped and died on a queue at a Federal Government pensions verification exercise. Nigerians and the world woke up last Tuesday to the horrible picture of the aged pensioner who died in a most embarrassing manner in public glare in an attempt to ensure continuing payment of his meagre pension.
The oldie was one of a group of about 5000 pensioners trying to have their documents checked and their biometric information captured when he collapsed and passed on.
He had travelled all the way from Akunnu-Akoko to Akure for the verification. Witnesses reportedly said medical care was not immediately made available to the man when he collapsed, and his corpse was left on the ground for about two hours before it was taken to the mortuary.
If nothing, the picture of this man which was splashed on the front pages of some national newspapers, speaks volumes of the amount of care available to the aged in Nigeria. It was, to say the least, an embarrassment and an indictment of our pension administration system.
The problematic procedure used for verification of pensioners across the country has for long been a source of concern. All pensioners, including those in their eighties and nineties, the ill and the disabled, are required to travel long distances to appear in person before pension verification personnel who sometimes visit the oldies with indignities.
While many nations have developed humane pensioner verification models incorporating home visits to very old and infirm pensioners, Nigeria still insists on aged pensioners travelling long distances to appear in person for verification.
In Akure, over 5000 pensioners were reportedly being attended to with only one computer to capture their data. This makes the pensioners stay for longer than necessary at screening centres. Pensioners are known to stand on queues for hours at many verification centres across the country. A number of them have been reported to have collapsed and died in the process. This is unacceptable.
The time allotted by government for verification exercises is also often not long enough, thereby putting pensioners under pressure. Many sharp practices reportedly also take place at the centres, with allegations of money changing hands to quicken the process.
Even then, pensioners from many establishments do not receive their monthly pensions as due. This is not only insensitive and wicked, it is a direct threat to the lives of the pensioners.
The lesson that is unfortunately being passed across through the maltreatment of pensioners in Nigeria is that it does not pay for any public servant to be honest and shun corruption while in service because there is no guarantee that such officer will receive his pensions in old age. This, in itself, is an incentive to corruption for public officers, as they will like to build a nest for their old age.
Pa Ayodele, who had his lifeless corpse splashed on newspaper covers across the country, should not be allowed to die in vain. Let his death be used an opportunity to design more humane pension administration policies. Pensioners, especially those over a certain age, say 70, should not be required to travel for any verification exercise.
Let pension administration officers get off their butts and visit the pensioners, if not in their homes, in the towns and villages they live in. Many pensioners have died in accidents during journeys to verification exercise venues, and from the stress of the exercise. Let adequate provision in terms of medical facilities and personnel be made available wherever pensioners gather for verification exercises to ensure that the old men and women do not die of stress while trying to collect their entitlements. Let Nigeria work towards a kinder and more caring society.
The disabled, the sick and the very old must have pension services brought to their doorsteps. If the pensions offices have to employ more hands to attend to the retirees, let them do so. In addition, pensions officials should be trained on dealing with the old who are often feeble and need to be treated gently. Let Nigeria work towards a society that is caring and kind to the aged.
Who will tell the president?
Who will bell the cat, if not you journalists? After all, save for very few ones among you, Mr. President rode on the back of your bias and sentimental horses to stardom. It is rather belated seeing his blunders now. This gentleman had exhibited his weakness for such responsibility long enough for us to have been on alert. He made terrible goofs before the election, worse than what we observe today, yet the media gave him image laundering. His attitude towards pressing national issues leaves much to be desired. He's always under illusion of self-assessment as done by party sycophants, including foreign friends! Did God not guide us enough? We need not lament or have we exhausted the Goodluck lifelines?
His promises? Trojan gifts! He's a chip off the old block with continuation of third term agenda etc.
Akintayo Omoyele, Lagos
Just read your article Online. It is a great piece and I am really moved by the sentiments communicated therein. It never ceases to amaze me how a man said to hold a Ph.D in some reasonable discipline could be so unenlightened as to canonize his government on the basis of a statement from a leader far away who is bereft of knowledge about how things work here. Someone should really tell President Jonathan!
Tell President Goodluck Jonathan that it is only a Nebuchadnezzar who will kill an ant (common man) for the sin of an elephant (fuel importers)
Giant Esharive Ozoro, Delta State.
I hope somebody will tell the president. Your view in that column is beautiful. I wish the President will watch his words and talk less. It is said that action speaks louder than words. May God strengthen him. Thank you for the sound thoughts..
Like you rightly wrote in your column last Wednesday, nobody will tell the president. But I know that the president has eyes and ears. Let somebody advise him to channel the billions of naira earmarked for national identity cars to resuscitate our refineries.
You are wonderful for hitting the nail on the head. But as you rightly said, who will tell him? I wish they would remember the past old days when they were going to school barefooted. Abians are crying for imposing a ruthless leader on them.
President Jonathan is the most mature leader Nigeria has ever had. Have you ever viewed the childishness of others? Try and you will see Jonathan as the redeemer of Nigeria.