WE’LL GO NAKED, PENSIONERS PROTEST NON-INCLUSION IN MINIMUM WAGE COMMITTEE

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WE’LL GO NAKED – PENSIONERS PROTEST NON-INCLUSION IN MINIMUM WAGE COMMITTEE

Pensioners in Nigeria on Thursday decried the non-inclusion of their members in the newly constituted Minimum Wage Tripartite committee.

The pensioners under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, said they had lost about 1,500 of their members in recent times as a result of hardship and high cost of living in the country.

Addressing journalists in Abuja, the President of NUP, Comrade Godwin Abumisi, in a prepared text said the Senior Citizens would embark on protest in Abuja if the Federal Government failed to include Pensioners in the Minimum Wage Tripartite Committee.

He said, “I want to say it clear and I want you to write it, I am going to lead Nigerian pensioners naked. I mean naked. When we are going to protest, we are going to go naked on the streets.

“Write down this so that the world will see it, Nigerian pensioners are going to demonstrate naked. If they like, let them arrest us on why we go naked, are you mad? And we will say, we are mad. We have reached a situation where we can now say, we are mad.”

Fielding questions on whether the union had suffered any casualty as a result of the hardship in the country, he said, “Let me say this, we have casualties every day. The casualties arising from the maltreatment of pensioners in Nigeria, we have now gone into 1,500.

“Just about last week, we travelled to Enugu to bury one of the staff. We know that he perished out of hunger. It’s in our power to distribute food to pensioners in Nigeria, but we don’t have the resources.

“In Nigeria, government does not think about the poor people, they only think about themselves, otherwise how can a pensioner in Enugu receive as low as N450?”.

He lamented that their members in some states especially in Enugu State collect as low as N450 monthly as pension.

He further said, “For records, the NUP is the only legally recognized body and voice of the entire civil and para-military pensioners in Nigeria. When the news of constituting the long-awaited Tripartite National Minimum Wage Review Committee was announced by the Federal Government, it was applauded by the NUP, with the high hope that they would be represented in such a high-powered committee to offer their voice to the negotiation as well as make a case for their members, bearing in mind that pensioners are workers in retirement who go to the same market for their daily needs.

Moreso, we feel that the pensioners’ union should be carried along during negotiations on the matters that bother on their members. Unfortunately and regrettably too, our hope of being represented in the Committee was dashed as the name of NUP was visibly omitted from the membership list.

“And this is the reason why we are here today to protest and register our displeasure and dissatisfaction with the constitution of the committee which has undermined the relevance and authority of the union (NUP), using the instrumentality of the press.

“Some may argue that the interest of the NUP as a member of the Organized Labour family would be sufficiently catered for by the representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the committee.

“But regrettably, this has not always been the case as previous experiences have shown that pensioners had always been left out in the series of wage reviews and negotiations to their fate, not until their local union (NUP) will have to struggle overtime to press for a corresponding upward review of pensions for their members.

“This shouldn’t have been the case. This oversight, or do we call it maltreatment of the Senior Citizens, is a flagrant contravention and disobedience to the provisions of Sections 173(3) and 210(3) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which unambiguously stipulates that “Pensions shall be reviewed every five years, or together with any federal/state salary reviews, whichever is earlier”.

NUP in its demands said, “That as a mark of honour and respect for the Senior Citizens (pensioners) of this great country who had given their best during their prime age, call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who in our opinion holds the Nigerian pensioners in high esteem to as a matter of urgency appoint the leadership of the Union to serve in the Committee just like we have leaderships of the NLC standing for the workers in the Public Service, TUC representing the interest of the Private Sector Workers, and other interest groups such as the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) etc representing various interests in the country.

“It is therefore dangerous and insensitive to exclude the pensioners from such Committee that is given the mandate to decide the fate of Nigerians of different socio-economic interest groups. In fact, it is like shaving a man’s head in his absence. As a matter of fact, in our opinion, the review of any National Minimum Wage should always go pari-pasu with the review of the National Minimum Pension, as workers and pensioners belong to the same Civil Service family with similar characteristics and needs.

“It may sound incredible and absurd, but it is the naked fact that many of our members across the states of the Federation are still earning as low as N500, N1,000 as monthly pensions, particularly, in the South-East states of Nigeria.

Others are Borno State N4000, Gombe N8,000, Jigawa N12,000, Katsina N7,000, Kogi N5000, Kwara N3000, Niger N4,000, Taraba N5,000, Yobe N4,500, Zamfara N3,000, Nasarawa N4,000, Osun N10,000, Ondo N3,000, Oyo N5,400, Enugu N450, Adamawa N2000, Kano N5,000.

“It is important to highlight here that the above pension rates are as low as shown above due to non-harmonization of pensions which the Union has always made a case for, as well as the non-implementation and payment of the previously reviewed N18,000 minimum wage in 2010 and the N30,000 minimum wage in 2019 by many states of the federation. Sadly, the non-implementation of these salary reviews in the states has affected the corresponding increases in pensions in the various states under reference.

“NUP takes exception to and disagree with the untenable excuses by the State Governments that they cannot afford the implementation and payment of the previous wage reviews, even with the increase in federal allocation to states by the present administration under the able leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is unacceptable and unpardonable.

“Therefore, given the above records, and in the interest of fairness and justice, we wish to propose the sum of N100,000 as the National Minimum Pension to the Tripartite Committee in line with the proposed N200,000 National Minimum Wage by the NLC, as anything short of that would incur the wrath of the pensioners who are hard-hit by the prevailing economic hardship, occasioned by the ever rising cost of living in a geometrical progression.

“We have the authority of our members to call for a mass protest across the country, particularly in the capital city of Abuja if our demands are not being addressed by the Federal Government.”On the promised palliative by the government, NUP said, “Shamefully and embarrassingly too, even the so-called palliatives and the Wage Award of N25,000 promised by the Federal Government to pensioners and other vulnerable groups are yet to see the light of the day, leaving the hopeless, dejected and frail pensioners who have little or no resources to take care of their needs to their fate.”

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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