SOLUTIONS and ideas sometimes come from the most unlikely of places. A couple of days ago, my wife and I were at the Ogudu GRA residence of my brother Captain Austin Anianu to commiserate with him and his wife on the death of the mother in law and somehow we got talking. The woman who allocated sixty million monthly allowance to herself was in the news. It does appear that those sent to help bring sanity to the pension office are the ones compounding the situation, beginning from Maina and his other accomplices. The looting of the pension funds have become a recurring challenge and I expressed my fear for the future of the workers of the NPA and the NNPC should they end up moribund like the railways corporation.
The response from Captain Austin was swift: ‘I have no sympathy for any of them’, he said. I asked why? He responded: ‘all of them who have worked in the government and other parastatals have contributed to the mismanagement and looting that brought these establishments to their present deplorable state and so must suffer the consequences of their actions on their retirement’. He went further, ‘ look at the Nigeria Airways, when it was in operation, a Lagos to London flight will have over 60 percent of the passengers on complimentary/rebate tickets, how do you expect the airline to survive? Go to any government ministry or establishment, you will discover how workers hold on to files until their palms are greased. See their attitude to work, they assume that it is nobody’s business and allow government infrastructures to run down without care, see NITEL, see PHCN’. He reminded me of how it used to take us days to get NITEL technicians to fix a simple broken line, ‘after shamelessly running the company aground, they are now coming out to cry for pension, like the PHCN staff are doing presently, where do you expect the money to come from?’ I began to see the situation in a new light. I have always known civil servants to be the biggest challenge facing the positive change process in this country; their work culture, drive and patriotism is based solely on ‘me and myself’. After robbing the government of vital incomes during their stay in service, they now want to receive pension for work not done, that is exactly the situation.
If our civil servants have chosen to work with the expected diligence and patriotism, will our public corporations be in the state they are in presently? I believe the answer is no. Therefore, for those of us crying wolf now, the question we should ask ourselves is: what has been our contribution to the deplorable state of affairs? As we speak, the documents at various government ministries and parastatals are still been processed at snail speed. Nigeria is still one of the most difficult countries to do business in because of several encumbrances put in place by civil servants. From the sea, land and air ports, different agencies of government are working at cross purposes, duplicating efforts all to no avail but for individual’s personal gain. Despite the policies put in place, the Customs still allows in contraband goods, the Police has refused to dismantle its roadblocks on our highways. The country is filled with illegal immigrants while we have a functioning immigration department. Even the Justice system is not spared. Getting a document from the courts is like passing through the eye of the needle. So, having failed to make a positive contribution while you were in service, who will you now blame when money that is due you as pension,is now being diverted? It is a food for thought for those of us still in public service. The bottom line is that, everyone must realise that whatever foundation we lay today in the course of work will come to haunt us later in life if not properly laid. I do not know how those in government will do it but until they put a culture of taking government business as personal responsibility, the positive change will be difficult to execute. I believe the top echelon of our civil service should be targeted for effective change to take place, not the junior workers, the way President John Magufuli is doing in Tanzania now. If the top can lead by example, the lower rung will naturally follow.
I believe that our focus must be in the effective monitoring of our senior civil servants. It is a good thing that the previous governments have put in place Pension Managers to take care of pensioners funds after service and with the way some of them are operating, the era of mismanagement or looting of pension funds will be a thing of the past. The problem is that the same government agencies and ministries will be the ones flouting the regulations that have been put in place on check off deductions and payment to relevant bodies. We have situations where government agencies/ministries do not re mitt deductions to the appropriate authority. They will deduct from the workers’ pay, including taxes, but divert the money to other uses. That has been the tradition and that is why the pension challenges linger on. People must learn to operate within the confines of the law. Nobody is above the law, even the President and those in the armed forces. Why for example, should a government ministry fail to pay for energy consumed? Why should the police authorities not pay for power consumed? Definitely, someone up there does not think it is important because he or she is not directly affected. They also, do not care about the state of infrastructure because the government bears the brunt for all of these excesses. It is important for us to realise that our little actions contributed to the bad state the country is today. PHCN workers picket the DISCOs daily. They forget they contributed to the present mess. The oil workers union are also warming up for action, forgetting that they helped to supervise what brought about the present situation. We must all examine our different actions in the course of service to the nation and ask ourselves how we have contributed individually to our present dilemma. Mr. Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.
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