We support Pensioners’ protest to demand for their rights
We commend Ondo State workers for rejecting the Contributory Pension Scheme
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), Osun State Chapter condemns in strong terms the continued but wicked insensitivity of the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government to the plight of the retirees in the state. For almost three months running, retirees in the state are not being paid their entitlements, which is even meager compared to what political officers spend on their ostentatious lifestyles. We give our support to the retirees for the protests organized to demand for their entitlements. We call on them to continue this protest if the government fail to immediately accede to their demands i.e. full payment of all pension arrears and gratuity, and prompt payment of monthly pension. We in SPN will give practical and open support to them in their struggle. We also condemn attempt by the security forces to attack the protesting senior citizens, as we place the cause of the protest at the doorstep of Osun State government.
Just two month ago, retirees had to organize mass protest to demand for payment of several months of pension arrears and gratuities after the government had refused to listen to their peaceful pleas. Rather than accede to their demands, the government, through the commissioner for finance, was propounding different lame theories on why government failed in its responsibilities. It seems, having being embarrassed by the decision of the retirees to take their case to the court of public opinion, the government has resolved to punish the retirees by withholding their monthly pension payments since January this year. By this action, government is also trying to make government pension scheme unattractive as a way of blackmailing workers into accepting the exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme where workers pension and contributions become free capital for venture capitalists to gamble upon.
This action of the Rauf Aregbesola/APC government has again knocked a big hole in the much-touted but fake ‘progressivism’ of the government and the ruling party in the state. It has further corroborated the position of we in the SPN that the current government/ruling party in the state is not fundamentally different from its predecessors in terms of implementation of anti-poor policies save for media propaganda and cosmetic reforms. Otherwise, the government will not wait for monthly protests of retirees before paying its retired workers, who committed their entire adult lives to the public good. While retirees are suffering from untold hardship, political officers, whose duties are supervisory and advisory, are living extravagantly on the common wealth. The excuse of poor financial situation of the state being touted by the government does not hold water. The resources needed to settle pension arrears and gratuities is not up to what has been committed to the ostentatious lifestyles of politicians in power.
More disturbing is the fact that many of these retirees were forced into retirement by the bankrupt pension policy initiated by the ousted Oyinlola/PDP administration but implemented by the current Aregbesola/APC government. This anti-worker policy asked workers to either retire by December 2012 or join the exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme that will hand over the fate of retirees to the hands of shylock financial capitalists. Many workers who had fewer years in service were forced into retirement because they believed government would be responsible. Unfortunately, a government elected for public good has turned around as a monster. While government has refused to timely pay pension of its retirees under the government pension scheme, it has also refused to remit its contribution to the exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme, thus making life difficult for all categories of retirees. To add insult to injury, cost of living has soared has government, both at the state and national levels, have embarked on neo-liberal policies that have made life more miserable for vast majority of the populace. School fees in the state-owned university, UNIOSUN, are as much as N150, 000 while an average student in LAUTECH (a university jointly owned by Oyo and Osun States) pays as much as N80, 000, in a state where minimum wage of N18, 000 has not been implemented.
Consequently, we call on labour movement, whose membership includes pensioners, in the state to take the issue of retirees as a labour issue. The current situation where the labour leaders hardly show any interest in the plight of retirees, even they are co-opted into government’s pension advisory committee, where they draw allowances, is worrisome. As we commend retirees for taking their destinies in their own hands through open protests, we also call on pensioners’ union, NUP, in Osun State to take government to task, by mobilizing all sections of the union to fight for adequate pension for retirees.
While we call on labour movement in Osun State to take up the issue of unpaid pension, we also want to commend workers in Ondo State for rejecting the obnoxious and exploitative Contributory Pension Scheme, which can only multiply the suffering of workers and retirees. The Scheme is an attempt by government to shirk its responsibility of ensuring living pension for workers by handing pension of workers to profit-making ‘investors’, who want to feed fat on the misery of poor retirees. We call on workers and labour movement in Osun State and nationally to follow this example and demand a living pension tied to the cost of living for all workers.
SignedAlfred Adegoke Kola Ibrahim
State Chairman State Secretary