12th July, 2010
The plight of the nationâ€™s pensioners, also called senior citizens, has again become an issue of serious concern to many who feel for these elders. Their harrowing experience in the hands of government officials who pay them their pension, speaks volumes about how cruel our leaders are as it concerns the welfare of these feeble people they are supposed to treat with dignity and respect after they had served the nation in their youth.
It is even more annoying to see how these senior citizens are treated whenever they visit the pensions office to pick their stipends. There have been reports that a lot of these pensioners collapse on the queue and die because of the long hours they spend on the queues and the bureaucratic bottlenecks they have to surmount before they get paid.
Recently the senior citizens were told to report to Lagos for their pension without the authorities making adequate arrangementsÂ for their accommodation and feeding. They were abandoned to their fate on arrival. They had to stay in the open and at the mercy of the elements. The rain fell on them and they were not spared by the scorching sun either. When the situation became unbearable, a few of the pensioners raised money to hire canopies to shield themselves from the elements.
The plight of these pensioners could be mitigated if the authorities in charge of payment decentralise the procedure involving their screening and payment of their stipends. Asking thousands of them to converge on a particular location for the exercise is a cruel way to treat the elderly. It is a shame that even in this 21st century, technology cannot be deployed to solve this perplexing problem of pension payment.
Despite efforts to reform the national pension scheme to make it private sector-driven through the introduction of the Pension Fund Administrators, pensioners are still having a raw deal in the hands of government officials. Railway pensioners, NIPOST retirees and even military pensioners are usually at the receiving end of a system that punishes rather than rewards those who had served the nation with all their vigour that is now totally sapped. And to put them through this needless suffering shows that something is fundamentally wrong with our leaders.
At a time senators and members of the House of Representatives are demanding for an increase in their salaries and allowances, our pensioners are left in penury. At a time the Federal Government is shelling out over N6 billion for the 50th Independence anniversary jamboree, our senior citizens have been abandoned to their fate in the sun and in the rain.
We cannot continue to treat these people like this. Their curses will haunt all those who have prevented them from having a blissful retirement. There should be a better way to pay these peopleâ€™s stipends instead of putting them through the suffering they areÂ facing.