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Labour Minister’s charge on pension harmonisation

One of the remarkable difference between governance in civilised climes and the underdeveloped countries in Africa is that the while the former pays strict attention to laws, the latter brazenly violates it. Specifically, laws are to ensure equity, fairness and justice, which are the hallmark of civilisation.
Recently, the Minister of labour and productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, demonstrated statesmanship when he received leaders of the Association of Contributory Pensioners of Nigeria, [ACPN] in his office. He expressed readiness of the federal government  to abide by the country’s laws, especially on the wellbeing of workers and pensioners. He said: “The Constitution is clear in Section 173[3] on how pension should be administered. It is to be reviewed every five years or upon an increment in salary. A review was done in 2011 on minimum wage and once that is touched, it should automatically affect the pension”.
It is pertinent to recall that as a former governor of Anambra State, Ngige not only paid pensioners alongside the workers, but went further to harmonise the glaring disparity between their incomes.
Conversely, when the current minimum wage was implemented in 2011, his successors displayed contemptuous indifference to pensioners’ plight without harmonising their pensions in spite of four rounds of verifications.
In Anambra, permanent secretaries who retired before May 2011 when the current minimum wage came into force are still paid only N30, 000.00, while those that retired later receive N450, 000.00. Similarly, Directors receive less than N80, 00.00, while their counterparts are paid N120, 000.00. This huge disparity has affected the welfare of many pensioners, as they are unable to purchase the necessary drugs and medications for their ailments.
Fact is that the Federal Government has little influence to compel recalcitrant state governors to implement the envisaged new Minimum Wage and harmonisation of pensions. Recall that in his inaugural speech, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed revulsion at those governors who hijack the monthly statutory allocations to local government councils.
The importance of harmonising pension cannot be over-emphasised. The liberalisation of the down-stream sector of petroleum industry led to rise in prices of petrol and kerosene respectively. Consequently, the inflation caused by the increase is affecting consumers  concerning supply and demand.
Observers are of the view that the government’s policy on the energy was inevitable in order to shore up the country’s dwindling foreign reserves. Though the  organised labour called for strike to protest the new price regime,  it was not lost on  the federal government as it expressed readiness for negotiation to inject palliative measures to cushion the severe impact of the phenomenal rise in the prices of petroleum products.
It is in this regard that  it constituted and inaugurated  a ‘Joint Committee’ with  organised labour to  come up with a new minimum wage.
The expectations from public servants in the three tiers of government is to be paid a reasonable new wage, even as pensioners are expecting  income harmonisation. We  are therefore calling on both parties to negotiate in good faith to save millions of workers and pensioners from increasing poverty and destitution. We believe and hope the Minister of Labour would at the end of the day give Nigerians reason to smile.

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