As our amiable Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, prepares to grace the next convocation of the Lagos State Polytechnic coming up in a few days, it is pertinent to bring to your notice, the suffering of some retirees of the polytechnic whose pensions and gratuities have been unjustly withheld by the management of the polytechnic and some cabals at Alausa for the past 10 months.
This set of retirees, numbering about 150, both academic and non-academic staff, was last paid their pensions in May 2016, about 10 months ago, and part of their gratuities have been withheld since they retired from the polytechnic in 2010.
Because of this wicked act on the part of the current Lagos State Polytechnic management, the retirees have been going through indescribable agony in the last 10 months. Some have had their children withdrawn from schools on account of their inability to pay their children’s school fees while some, who were suffering from one ailment or the other, have been unable to cater for their health needs. In fact, about five of the retirees have been reported dead on account of their inability to take care of their health.
The current polytechnic management headed by the Rector, Mr. Yinka Sogunro, in collusion with the auditor-general of the state who wrote a spurious letter, at the instance of the school management, without notice, suddenly stopped the payment of pensions to the retirees who left the polytechnic en masse in 2010 and who had been paid regularly since December 2010 up till May 2016 when they were wickedly yanked off the payroll.
The excuse of the auditor-general of the state in writing a letter to the school management to stop the payment of pensions to the 2010 set of retirees was that she had discovered, after six years that the pensioners’ retirement was allegedly irregular. But this excuse is not only spurious, it is fallacious.
The genesis of the mass retirement of both the academic and non-academic staff from the polytechnic began in 2007 when the Lagos State government, under our able Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, passed a new pension law, the Pension Reform Act/Contributory Pension Scheme of 2007 in the state. The law stipulates that workers should enroll with private pension providers whereby a monthly deduction would be made from their salaries with equal contribution from the state government into each individual employee’s account with the private pension providers.
There was, however, a caveat to the law which states that civil servants who were eligible to pensions under the old scheme, but who did not wish to participate in the new pension scheme have the option of exiting from the service in three years after the promulgation of the act i.e. 2010. All such employees who wished to continue with the old pension scheme were expected to leave the service of the polytechnic by June 2010. All those who wanted to go with the old pension scheme with the state government wrote letters of retirement to the then polytechnic management which were duly acknowledged by the management.
However, because of the usual unstable academic calendar in the polytechnic, as in other higher institutions in Nigeria, the then polytechnic management wrote the retirees that since academic engagement rules stipulated that lecturers could not leave before the end of a session, all academic staffers were mandated to defer their exit till November 30, 2010 when the academic calendar for that year would end. It’s on account of their exit in November 2010 that the retirees are now being victimised and unjustly denied their pensions and part of their gratuities.
Your Excellency Sir, when the academic staff were retiring in 2010, their gratuities were paid and calculated based an old salary scale for polytechnic worker while the state government had already approved that the polytechnic management should start paying a new salary scale to its staff since January 2009, but as at the time of the exit of this set of retirees, the polytechnic had not started paying its staff, until 2012 when the staff, including the 2010 retirees were duly paid arrears of salaries from February 2009 to sometime in 2012. Those who had retired in 2010 were paid their salary arrears up till the time of their exit on November 30, 2010.
The pension payment of this set of retirees was also adjusted upward by the last management of the polytechnic since they were supposed to have earned the money from February 2009 up till the point of their exit on November 30, 2010. But since their gratuities were based on the old scale, the 2010 retirees logically asked for the balance of their gratuities based on the new scale, which successive managements of the polytechnic have refused to pay on account of non-availability of funds.
Constant reminders to the current polytechnic management to pay these arrears, plus pension arrears, became a thorn in their flesh and led them to engineer the complete stoppage of the pensions of both academic and non-academic staff numbering about 150 persons.
Your Excellency Sir, the retirees have exhausted all peaceful means to get back their rights all to no avail. The governing council appears to be helpless in this case as it has also been held captive by the greedy school management who wants to continue claiming the money from the government and then share it among themselves. They see the retirees as weak, vulnerable and helpless and want to cheat them out of their rights after serving the state with all their energy in their youthful years.
Already, the Office of the Head of Service had set up a panel to look into the issue comprising the Lagos State Pension Commission, the state Ministry of Justice, the polytechnic management, representatives of the retirees, etc, and the panel had submitted its report, but the Office of the Head of Service has been sitting on the report for more than three months now while the retirees continue to languish.
It is the prayers of these suffering retirees that Your Excellency should, as a matter of urgency, wade into this case and order the release of the pensions and gratuities of these innocent souls who have been put through unnecessary agony in the past 10 months.
Owolabi, a public commentator, lives in Ikorodu.
Vía The Guardian Nigeria http://ift.tt/2mGJ6cQ