Pensions, Gratuity and Much Ado about Nothing
By John Ewah
There is nothing like the passage of time to allow humans come to terms with that which they truly value. One wonders if the Nigerian society is characterised by conflicting characters who are unstable in their criticisms and general behaviour towards the government or any figure for that matter.
They seem lost, and as such, follow the first trail they find, and like scalar quantities, they are blown to whatever direction the wind commands. Shocking enough, even those, especially the gullible ones, whose interest you have prioritised, are the first to turn the tides against you with venomous criticisms.
This they do, either out of sheer ignorance or out of the deep hatred they have cultivated for the government over the years, including the one committed to projecting and protecting their interests, or merely for selfish reasons. And sometimes, one cannot help but view them with both sympathy and empathy and then say to their benefactors, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Governor Godwin Obaseki’s administration in Edo State can be attested to be the most worker-friendly administration in the current dispensation in the country. The question that therefore leaves one hazy is why some pensioners whom the state government pays their pensions on a monthly basis, and without fail, allow themselves to become puppets in the hands of the opposition, and start criticising that same government. This haziness bears testament to my position at the onset of this treatise. Obviously, the Edo people are aware that the recent protest embarked upon by this lot is politically motivated.
At the advent of the Obaseki administration, a huge backlog of debt owed pensioners in the state was inherited. The Edo State Government, under the leadership of Obaseki, cleared all inherited pension arrears and backlogs, from batches 37 to 65, up to the tune of N4.3bn. Pensioners in the state now receive their pension entitlements on a monthly basis and promptly.
To prevent similar problems for subsequent pensioners and future administrations in the state, the Edo State Government keyed into the Contributory Pensions Scheme in 2017, 13 years after the law was passed in 2004, with the state government making a matching contribution of 10 percent monthly for every eight percent deducted from salaries of public and civil servants, as pension contribution.
When PenCom released the 2021 fourth quarter report in 2022, 25 states in Nigeria were shown to have enacted pension laws on the CPS, while seven states were still at the bill processing stage.
The report listed Edo State as one of the four states in the federation with a full and up-to-date remittance of workers’ pension contributions, and this earned the state government commendations from civil and public servants as well as members of the public.
With the CPS, the issue of delayed gratuity for the younger employees has been solved once and for all. The state is one of the few states in Nigeria that is current on pension payment. With the 33.3 percent increase in the state workers’ salaries since May 2022, and its attendant increase in the state’s minimum wage to N40,000, the state government harmonised pension payments and increased pension dues.
On a monthly basis, the state government makes available N100m to pay gratuity to retirees with serious medical challenges. Over N1bn was paid in 2022. It is on record that one-third of personnel cost in Edo State is currently being used to service pensioners.
Today, with the CPS operational in Edo State, in the event of death of any public servant enrolled in the CPS, their family members or next of kin get three times their gross annual salaries which have been provided for by an insurance policy.
The Edo State Government pays a yearly premium for all state employees in the CPS; this the state government has been paying since 2017. In 2017, the Edo State Government paid the sum of N80.7m premium for 9,803 staff members enrolled in the scheme.
In 2018, the staff strength increased to ten thousand, eight hundred and fourteen and the state government paid N215m as premium. This payment has continued on a yearly basis; the more the staff strength and the higher the salaries, the higher the premium.
Within a short period of the eventual death of any public servant in the state, their death certificate is sent to the insurance company, who processes their cheques, which is then paid to the family of the deceased by the state government.
More than 180 families of deceased employees have benefitted from the scheme, with about N500m disbursed to families of deceased employees since the inception of the scheme. And this is just the first of the three components of payment the families are entitled to.
It would therefore be an exercise in futility if a few disgruntled persons who have submitted themselves as working tools in the hands of the opposition start making attempts to besmirch the reputation which the Obaseki administration has garnered over the years, as it relates to workers’ welfare. True pensioners in Edo State are aware that as long as this administration is concerned, their welfare is a top priority.
The government of Godwin Obaseki will never submit to blackmail and intimidation but continue to do only that which it believes is right and invest prudently to make Edo State great again.