THE GOOD LIFE FOR OUR RETIREES
It gives me great pleasure to be at this occasion, the presentation of retirement bond certificates to the second batch of retirees under the contributory pension scheme. I must therefore thank the Bureau of Local Government Staff Pensions for its tireless effort at securing pensioners welfare and putting this event together. Today’s event is a refreshing good news and positive development, even as our opponents and traducers have failed to see anything good happening in our state.
The first batch of retirees, 78 in number, in the Local Governments and primary schools of the State received their retirement bond certificates on December 15, 2014, the total value of the bonds being five hundred and ninety three million, seven hundred and sixty thousand naira (N593,760,774.42k).
Today’s beneficiaries are 188 retirees in the Local Governments and primary schools of Osun and will receive bonds valued at one billion, four hundred and seventy million, nine hundred and seventy seven thousand naira (N1,470,977,537.14k).
The journey to contributory pension began in 2004 with the signing into law of the Contributory Pension Act. Actually, pension was contributory, that is, the employee and employer put something away until retirement of the former. It was a more effective system which put the responsibility for the life-after-work of the employee on both parties and the society also being a beneficiary of the long term savings. In the developed world where this scheme has taken root, pension savings are huge and are mostly dedicated to long term investment in housing, infrastructure and development projects generally.
However, with the oil boom, we jettisoned contributory pension and opted for non-contributory scheme because the then Federal Government, awash with oil money, did not think of the future and thought it could conveniently carry the burden. Today, the chicken has come home to roost. With dwindling resources, wages and pensions have come under much difficulties for governments. As most states are finding it difficult to pay their active and passive workers, even the Federal Government is not left out. In the twilight of the last regime, that ancien regime had to borrow N467 billion to pay workers in its last four months. As we speak, the top cadre of its pensioners are still owed up to six months.
Even though it has its own challenges, I am, however, happy that contributory pension will not present the same challenges as the non-contributory scheme. It is private sector managed and will not be savaged by the vagaries of paying pensions from dwindling current revenue. It is funds put aside for the raining day and should be available on demand.
I want to assure those who are currently in the scheme, that irrespective of the challenges we are facing now, we shall fulfil our obligations to contributory pension scheme by remitting all dues as soon as the funds are available to us. It is on record that we never defaulted until the cash crunch crisis. We are happy however, that we are back on track and have begun remitting the dues.
There are some workers who are demanding that they be exempted from contributory pension scheme. As much as we would like to meet the demands of our workers, two strong factors stand in the way. The first is the legality. The national law of 2004 makes it mandatory on states and this has been consolidated and put beyond doubt by our own law of 2010. This demand, therefore, cannot be met without violating these two laws and we are not prepared to violate laws.
Secondly, it is immoral. We cannot have two sets of rules for workers in the state. The law applies to all equally. Those who did not want to participate in contributory pension had the option of retiring in December 2013 and gladly opted out of service. They have joined the army of pensioners over whom we have responsibilities. Those making the demands cannot eat their cake and have it.
The contributory pension notwithstanding, we regard our pensioners as senior citizens whose welfare is paramount to us. If we can set up ‘Agba Osun’ to take care of our elderly, why won’t we take care of our retirees? It is therefore unfortunate the attempt by a very tiny section of the retirees to politicise their own affairs and thereby play into the hands of the opposition. A false accusation was reported recently by a coterie of retirees, alleging that the government had diverted the bailout funds. This is totally false and malicious on the part of those who made the allegation and those who reported the falsehood. The leadership of labour last week testified that the money was intact, and we have since been paying.
When our administration came in 2010, monthly pension was N200 million. We have increased this to N520 million. And so in 2010, we committed N400 million to pensions. In 2011, we increased our monthly pension obligation to N250 million and we paid N3 billion that year. By March of 2012 our pension obligation rose to N300 million monthly which cost us N3.5 billion. But in December 2012, about 5,000 retirees were added to the 9,000 pensioners in the state and in the following year, 2013, we increased our monthly pension bill to N520 million and paid out N5 billion in that year. That same year, another set of 3,500 workers retired at the local government to enlist in the local government pension brigade. In 2014, though we had started lagging behind on pension payment, we still committed a total of N4.9 billion to pensions.
Our administration has also implemented the 140 per cent increase in pension. As we speak, I have received the petition, that all pensioners earning below N10,000 be upgraded to that amount. We are seriously considering this and will implement it as soon as our finances are buoyant enough to carry this extra burden.
Our pensioners are our people. They are our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, friends and relations. They are our former colleagues. We also owe them a debt of welfare. They deserve comfort and the good life, even in their old age. Therefore, the government shall continue to fulfil its obligations to them, irrespective of the circumstances on ground.
This state is my primary assignment and responsibility. Therefore, I and my team will continue to give our best to ensure the welfare of all our people. We shall not be distracted by the vanquished opposition and their collaborators.
There are those who cannot see any good thing happening in Osun, if you meet them, love and hug them. Life can be very difficult for the blind.
I thank our financial partners, pension managers, the leadership of the Civil Service in the state, the Bureau of Local Government Staff Pension and every person or organisation that have worked to give our pensioners the good life.
To the distinguished audience, I thank you all for your kind attention.
Osun a dara!