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Editorial: Stop playing politics with pensions

The government’s inability to meet pension obligations is a recurring decimal in our country’s past. Many have reportedly died while waiting for their gratuity, and many more are reportedly living in extreme poverty.

It’s a sad but common sight to see elderly people in the country’s cities and towns holding placards and protesting the government or waiting in line for their pensions under the scorching sun.

Since the economy is in such bad shape right now, some pre-existing problems have worsened.
In some states, retiring teachers receive their benefits six months after the effective date of retirement from service, even though they have given three months’ notice.

The bureaucratic structure of the system makes timely payment of benefits extremely unlikely.

Delta State’s retired primary school teachers gathered outside the governor’s mansion in July to demand their unpaid gratuity. And this is happening in many other states.

The PDP-controlled state government and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, are using the issue as a platform for political posturing ahead of the 2023 elections.

The State government claimed that the APC was behind the demonstrations in order to “score cheap political points.”

Mr Charles Aniagwu, the state commissioner for information, was also quoted as saying that the state government was not responsible for the pensions of teachers.

Retired Teachers protest in front of the Government House, Asaba, Delta State

The opposition party, of course, denied the allegation, saying it was hunger that brought the protesters to the streets.

Spokesman of the Delta State All Progressives Congress, APC, campaign council, Olorogun Ima Niboro, fired back at the PDP, urging the state governor, ”Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, to stop chasing shadows and pay the senior citizens their pensions and gratuities”.

Retired educators are kept in the dark while the two parties trade political jabs in an effort to discredit or establish a false rivalry; meanwhile, the question of who will foot the bill for their pensions remains unanswered.

Since we are all aware of the controversy surrounding the issue of financial autonomy for local councils, we must ask whether or not local councils can afford it if it falls under their purview.

It is important to note, however, that not all professions are treated equally when it comes to the implementation of policies and procedures, which means that some, like teaching, do not receive the attention they deserve.

No educational system can ever be better than the quality of its teachers, but if the government consistently demonstrates insincerity in this regard, people will start to question the veracity of this policy statement.

Our government has lost sight of the fact that teachers’ working conditions are a big part of how happy they are at work and how well they do their jobs.

The future of pension and retirement benefits is fraught with uncertainty for currently employed teachers.

At this year’s celebration of Teachers’ Day, President Muhammadu Buhari made several important announcements, including the rollout of the Teachers Salary Scale, the funding of teaching practice by TETFund, and a special pension scheme for teachers.

However, the fact that education is included on the Concurrent List in the Constitution of 1999 threatens to make the implementation of the policies a one-sided affair, in which only teachers in the employ of the Federal Government are sure to benefit from the goodies, as states appear reluctant to implement same.

Our recommendations

To properly implement government policies on teachers’ retirement benefits and pensions, we believe a separate pension board should be established, as teachers are the architects of all other professions.

In order to make sure that teachers retire at the right time and get paid properly, the records unit of the ministry of education should be properly supervised according to the computation of the record of services and personal data of teachers.

Complete digitization of the LGAs is also required to effectively manage its resources and distribute them as needed.

Even though these would present a challenge in terms of electricity and the cost of data, it is necessary to begin somewhere, and perhaps now the LGAs will begin to explore solar energy on a commercial level.

Writing by Annabel Nwachukwu; Editing by Saadatu Albashir