Earlier in the week, retirees in Gombe State blocked the entrance to the Government House to protest the non-payment of their pensions and gratuities. They speak about their struggles in these interviews with CHIMA AZUBUIKE
What is your name?
I am Comrade Ahmed Maisakala.
Why have you and your colleagues blocked the entrance to the Gombe State Government House?
We came to appeal to Governor Inuwa Yahaya (to pay our pension). Maybe because of the pressure of office, he has forgotten us; we believe that blocking the gate will help to refresh his memory, to let him know that we are angry; we’re starving and we may die soon. The Secretary to the State Government received us and has promised to set up a committee to look into the problems. We pray the committee work out the modalities towards resolving our challenges.
When did you retire?
I retired in 2018.
How many years did you put public into service?
I served for 35 years.
Where did you serve?
I served as a schoolteacher and rose to the rank of Assistant Education Secretary. I retired about two years ago after serving for 35 years.
How has life in retirement been for you?
Actually, life has been very difficult because when you serve you are receiving salary and it is expected that after service you get your gratuity and your pension. So, I thought that after retirement I would collect a huge sum of money as gratuity. However, when I retired I was placed on pension and life has been going gently. For those still in service, the minimum wage is usually reviewed upward after every five years but unfortunately, for more than 10 years now, pension has not been reviewed in Gombe State. What we get as pension is very little. Yet we are in February now, and we haven’t got our pension for June, November and December last year. We were also not paid for January this year and there is no indication that we are going to get that of February too.
Why is the payment staggered; I thought it comes monthly?
The grant comes monthly but when it arrives at the local government what they do is to first pay the salaries of those currently in service, especially those in the political class. They assume that we, pensioners, are dead. I’m sure the salaries of councillors and local government chairmen have been paid. After that, the money is nearly finished, so we are told there is no money to pay pension.
What do you in retirement?
I’m not a trader and I am not a contractor, but I would have started selling kola nut or something of that nature if my gratuity had been paid. Without capital, how can you go into any business? As a pensioner it is difficult to obtain credit facility because your creditor knows you don’t have a monthly pay.
How have you been coping?
I am into farming but my farm produce for last year can’t even feed my family for three months. But I’m lucky to have some children that are working. However, these children have their own families and responsibilities too. So, I am careful not to expect too much from them so that they don’t begin to ask me: where is your pension?
But my case is better. Some of my colleagues struggle to get even N1,000 throughout a month. They are old and can’t go out to make any money; some have issues with their sensitive organs and their eyes.
What about your gratuity?
For the state civil service, gratuity was last paid in 2014. Those who retired in that year have not been paid for seven years now. For the local service where I retired from, gratuity was last paid in June 2012, about nine years ago. We are not even thinking of the gratuity. They should just pay our pension so we can have a sense of belonging; so that we can continue to eat, so that those living in rented apartment can pay rent, those who are sick can pay their medical bills and those with children in school can pay fees.
Do you think the plight of retirees struggling to get their pension can encourage civil servants to engage in corrupt practices to avoid suffering in retirement?
While in service what made me not to steal was the fear God. Before I retired in 2018, I had seen that those who retired in 2012 were not paid their gratuity. So, I had seen it (non-payment of gratuity) coming but then, I was praying that the situation would have changed before my own retirement time. But unfortunately things have even become worse. For some in service now, if they know their gratuity will be delayed they will steal if they don’t have the fear of God. I’m not telling them to steal but anyone without the fear of God will steal to avoid the kind of hardship we are passing through now.
Given your own experience now, what kind of advice will you give to people currently in the civil service?
If you are working now and you are receiving salary, you better prepare for the worst because the worst is coming. Although I’m not praying for the worst, but I know it will come.
If you have the opportunity of meeting with the governor, what will be your request?
I will begin by refreshing his memory about his campaign promises; secondly, I will tell him that we are hungry and he should show concern as a good leader that he is. Even if we say gratuity is a huge sum of money, at least place us on the monthly pension and look for possible means of paying the gratuity.
God’ll reward pensioners in heaven if government doesn’t – Retired schoolteacher
What is your name?
I am Emilia Obika.
From your name you are Igbo?
Yes, I’m from Imo State; I got married to an Anambra State man. I have been here for a while; Gombe was under Bauchi State when I started working as a schoolteacher.
How many years did you work before retiring?
I spent 35 years in the civil service.
What was your experience like in the civil service?
I did my work dutifully; I was indeed dedicated to the service of the state. The local government and the Ministry of Education know of my impact. I started teaching in Central Primary School, where I worked for over 20 years before we relocated to Yalenguruza. It was in Yalenguruza Primary School that I retired. Usually, once I resumed for duty, I wouldn’t sit down until I had completed my lessons.
What are you doing in retirement?
Nothing. Money is required to start a business. The little money I had has gone into feeding. I wish to start something but there is no money.
How have you been coping?
(Sheds tears) I have been suffering in hunger. I have children and grandchildren; I need money to take care of them.
My entire savings have gone into feeding. But thanks to my siblings who have been assisting me. My children have finished school but have not started working.
What efforts have you made to get your pension?
I have been to their office and they have promised several times to pay. I was told they would pay me in December or January but I have yet to see anything.
What is your advice to those currently in civil service?
I will advise them to start saving, they should look for something to do. They should not be like us, although if I get money now I will start doing something. Personally, I saved but because it is about two years since I retired the money I saved has finished. They should do their work with the fear of God; if they do their work with the fear of God, He will help them. They will benefit from their hard work even if it is not money; so that at last if they did not get their reward on earth God will shower them with blessings in heaven. The money was not much but I did my work, I paid my dues.
It’s difficult feeding my family – 61-year-old retiree
What is your name?
My name is Saidu Baraya.
How old are you?
I am 61 years old.
Where did you work?
I worked in the Kwami Local Government Area of Gombe State, under the Local Education Authority. I served as a schoolteacher.
How many years did you work as a schoolteacher?
I was a schoolteacher for 31 years.
When did you retire?
I retired on February 15, 2020; about a year now.
Have you been included into pension scheme?
No, I am not yet included in the pension scheme. I have not started collecting pension yet.
How has life been in retirement for you?
It’s been full of challenges. I have been facing a lot of challenges. I have a family but there is no food because there is no pension. I don’t have any money from anywhere to sustain my family.
What inspired the protest by you and your colleagues?
It is because of the problem we are facing. We decided to protest to bring our plight to the fore.
Are you doing any business or work in retirement?
I don’t do anything.
How do you cope?
It has been bad. Sometimes we have nothing to eat for between two and four days. I find it difficult to maintain my family because there is no money. Imagine a situation where the children have one meal a day. It is sad.
If you have the opportunity of meeting the governor, what will you tell him?
I will urge the governor to look into our plight. I will urge him to hasten the plan of paying us our pension because it will go a long to making retirement enjoyable.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
p style="text-align: justify;">