By Amos Kalu
In Abia State of today, the term “Pension” is defined as, and has come to be associated with men/women who served the government during their heys days, but who have either died, dying or undecided whether to die or not, due to the circumstances they have found themselves in (though not of their own making), but have no option than to resign to fate and face life of frustration after service.
During my Yuletide holidays in Ohafia, I was opportune to witness and understand the cries, the woes, the intrigues and the level of politics wrapped around the “Pension” discourse in Abia which has made it an albatross and defining meaning of man’s inhumanity to man.
It reeves of sheer wickedness that after serving one’s state for 35 years, a man will be relegated to surviving through alms without any hope of a solution in sight.
While I was away from the state, I have this uncle who had become a pain in my neck because he always had one challenge or the other that needed urgent attention, this alone become a cause for worry because he somehow created a lacuna in my monthly plans. I was getting choked but I took it with mature grumbling to have a serious talk with him when I visited home since I knew he was a pensioner, so what I give should have been a means to augment his income and not his source.
When I got home, he came around with the latest problem that made me swallow my initial opinion, this time he needed urgent N20,000 because someone had ceased his motorcycle because of that amount. I asked why and he explained that they (the Abia Pensioners) were told that there was a fund sent to them to ameliorate their suffering and he was lucky to have his name on the list. But they were told that they needed to pay N50,000 as a condition to get the money after he had seen his name. Thrilled by such good news, he went and borrow N20,000, then borrowed another N20,000 from a second source and took N10,000 from his wife to make up N50,000 which he paid to them. On coming to collect the money for which he was hopeful, they were told that some Umuahia politicians are now paying N100,000 to take the money meant for the pensioners, so either he raise N100,000 or forget it. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t raise another N50,000, as a result, he couldn’t get the allowance and he couldn’t recover the one he paid. That was how he lost the money, yet couldn’t get the expected pension fund. It was one of the lenders that ceased his only asset left in his life “An Old Motorcycle”, for not refunding the lost N20,000 (part of the N50,000) at the agreed time.
Funny enough, he didn’t even know who sent the money to pensioners, nor did he know the people that were to pay them. When I inquired if the officials were from State or Federal level, he didn’t know because the hope was too real for them to be that curious. According to him, some pensioners with N50,000 paid and was given the fund before the Umuahia people came around.
This is left for the government to investigate and establish what happened because it is clear that some scrupulous elements are cashing in on the pain of these unsuspecting senior citizens of Abia State to make more money because I recall that I had to help him pay back N30,000 last 3 years, money he borrowed because someone told him to bring N30,000 so that he will include his name among people to receive their pension, it is unfortunate and condemnable.
On this fateful day of 29th December 2021, he came home sucking in disappointment and my mother who loves her siblings to a fault cried from morning till the time I got home to witness the unfortunate and ugly drama playing out in my home.
His experience got me wondering, how come, a man that served the State Government for 35 years as a teacher and retired in 2016 as Headmaster Grade could be subjected to such humiliation and pain in life?
It was then that I learned that to survive and stay alive, he had been working as a security man in Ebem Ohafia at a place where he was paid N20,000 monthly, the worse being that the job he is doing was supposed to have 4 guards who work day and night shifts in pairs, but because of the condition of the job, other people resigned, to stay sane, he had to be working alone both day and night at that same amount of N20,000 as salary. I began to imagine, is Abia a state for human beings or a gathering of ghosts who do not understand the meaning of humanity? All these were kept secret from me till this time.
The unfortunate part is that the leadership style of Abia State and her attitude towards her citizens have created a chain reaction of problems to every family in the state no matter where you lived. The little money youths make to survive is now directed to making sure their dying parents, uncles, aunts, etc stay alive due to neglect on the part of the government in the life of people that served them for over 35 years during their youthful days.
I made further inquiries and learnt that the story of Pensioners is endless to the extent that some of them have long written wills and told their children to inherit and share their pensions anytime the government pays it; a probability that is less than Zero. The situation is that bad.
Now the questions that have been pricking my mind are:
- What is the cause of non-payment of Pension in Abia State?
- Why do we always get this assurance that no one is being owed in Abia State, are pensioners not part of those to be paid?
- Are they some people embezzling the fund that are released to pay these patriotic cirizens?
- Is Abia State Government aware that some people are defrauding the already frustrated pensioners or are government officials beneficiaries of this ” man’s inhumanity to man?”
- What is the government plan about the fate of these frustrated and dying pensioners whom the government has used to create chain-economic-downturn in the life of every Abians even those that did not work for the government?
These questions and more are what I expect should be addressed because even if we build skyscrapers on every street in Abia State, if her citizens cannot feed and maintain a normal life, the effect will defeat, destroy and create a nuisance that will swallow everything we have built.
A worker is worthy of his/her wages.
Comr Amos Kalu is a political analyst, social media influencer and advocate of Good Governance at all levels.