16th January, 2013
PAY PENSIONERS' ENTITLEMENTS WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF RETIREMENT
The war against corruption in Nigeria has been long and hard. Yet no anti-corruption agency fashioned by successive Nigerian administrations to date has been able to nip the problem in the bud. The cancerous tumour rears its ugly head in every facet of public and private lives though its manifestation is felt most strongly in the public arena.
One of the casus belli for the reticence of corruption in this country is the negative attitude of governments and their agents to the payment of the retirement benefits of workers. The story is the same whether in the civil service, the army, the police, customs or any other formation.
Islam lays great emphasis on the umbilical cord which connects work with reward. People who serve must be paid. The Glorious Qur'an frowns upon the 'monkey-de-work-baboon-de-chop' mentality. Qur'an 24:38, 29:7 and 39:35 measure reward according to deeds. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) commanded his followers to pay workers before the sweat on their faces dry up.
Unfortunately this golden practice is ignored in Nigeria. Men and women who spent the most productive period of their lives in serving this country are treated like lepers who must not be touched and who must live the rest of their lives in quarantines. The payment of pension which should have been regular and monthly ceteris paribus is delayed for months and sometimes for years. In their old age, Nigerians who toiled for their country are treated like oranges whose owners peel off the skin and squeeze the juice out of them until they become totally dry and useless. They are then thrown away.
Many pensioners are made to stand in long queues under the burning sun while waiting to be paid. Many have collapsed and died in such inhuman circumstances. This is a blatant violation of citizens' Allah-given and fundamental human rights. It is ungodly, unjustifiable and unacceptable.
We of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) regard this phenomenon as wicked, inhuman and atrocious. It is the height of barbarism to treat senior citizens with reckless abandon. Any state governor or head of state who has no enduring welfare package for elderly people should pack his bags and baggages and leave office. Governance must have a human face and the welfare of the citizens (particularly the elderly) is the numero uno responsibility of government. Any government that fails in this regard has breached its contract with the people and should leave the stage for a more dedicated leadership.
MURIC asserts clearly, categorically and unambiguously that there is a symbiotic link between corruption and the shoddy way pensioners are treated. Workers who are still in service are driven to corrupt practices by the fear of what awaits them after retirement.
Finally, MURIC commends the efforts of some state governments who have initiated welfare packages for senior citizens and calls on the Federal Government and other states to take a cue from such welfarist states. We charge the National Assembly to enact a bill compelling the payment of pensioners' benefits within six months of retirement.
Professor Is-haq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),