Unpaid Pensions: Why It Was Wrong For Retirees Of Defunct Nigeria Airways To Be Captured In The Exercise -By Ifeanyichukwu Mmoh

Filed under: National Issues |

The question is not: What is the verification exercise all about? Rather the question should be: Why is this necessary and on what grounds did it become necessary? Sometimes back, I had the chance to refresh my memory with a national daily but the story I stumbled upon ended up infuriating me. It was a story about the Nigeria Railway Corp and how it was ran aground within 20 years. The title read: Railways revitalization gulps N2trn in 20 years; still in comatose by Paul Ogbuokiri, Sunday Telegraph February 11, 2018.

Now this is the statement that really got me pissed. It said “After reaching peak performance of over 11.28 million passengers and three million metric tons of freight in 1964, the Nigeria Railway Corp, started its rapid decline in the 70s, but was briefly stabilized in 1976 when the Obasanjo Military junta invited the Rail India Technical and Economic Services to manage the corporation.” By historical calendar, the decline of this corporation began after meritocracy was successfully dethroned during the Civil War.

That the corporation reached peak performance in the years before the Civil War struck me. That it started its rapid decline in the 70s also struck me. And during the years that followed, several serious interventions were made to reverse the fortunes of this all-important corporation but the handlers seemed to be unmindful of the fact that in other climes, government was the one that got money from such investments instead of being the one that lost monies after injecting such monies into it.


Nigeria Airways pensioner block the road leading to Lagos Airport


We are today talking about the Nigeria Airways which – in my knowledge of events in this country – suffered the same fate as the NRC shortly after the Civil War. Recalled in 2002 or thereabout when President Obasanjo openly attested that he left 20 functional Boeing air-crafts in the fleet of the Nigeria Airways in 1976 when he handed power to the democratic administration of President Shehu Shagari. Recall also that he made that assertion in great annoyance then.

We are today talking about verifying former employees of the defunct Nigeria Airways and most probably reward them. Are we going forward as a people or backwards? Will this be a reward that was truly earned and morally right? Is this not a case of rewarding mediocrity? When folks mismanaged a revenue generating organization like the NNPC or NITEL, they come back to receive rewards?

I cannot still believe that this is not happening in dreams, that a country that should be talking about raising a generation of attitudinal positive champions is busy celebrating mediocrity wherever it existed. Think of it, what will our children think of this in terms of their response? Will they not assume that there was more security in government jobs to the extent that even if a revenue generating agency goes sinking into the mud; employees’ pensions still got paid?

The rationale behind this verification exercise continues to baffle me. Now, was it because of government’s inability to float the Air Nigeria project – as a result of technical obstacles created by these former employees’ – that necessitated this move? I believe it is stupid to think this way, if it was. How many times has government provided bailout funds for traders and private sector operators in this country in the event of an economic meltdown? In other climes, the business people were pampered and held dearly but not so here.

It is always folks who grounded profitable agencies like the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill and co. and hindered countless youths from pursuing noble careers that always got rewarded. In the face of acute unemployment, does it not make more sense to have the younger generation – some of whom might be offspring’s of these former employees’ – placed in jobs from where they got monies to minister to themselves and their aged parents? No, Nigeria had enormous oil reserves and so little or no brain work is needed to spend the petrodollar.

Only God knows the amount that had so far being injected to revive this sector. I just told us about the NRC, some of us know of the $6.4BN USD investment in Ajaokuta Steel. What about those of Benue Cement and textiles and paper mills that once engaged these former employees in their youth and, which they grounded by their attitude of lack of dedication to work and greed? The same folks are standing to be verified as those worthy of receiving pension monies when their children are currently unemployed, not empowered and regretting the idea of being educated.

I have said it before and I’ll say again that Nigeria‘s messiah has always been around but the problem is that no one seemed to recognize it. That messiah we search for and which makes us want to change presidents after every 4 years has always been around. That messiah is inside of each and every one of us. That messiah is our mental attitude. It is our mindset! We are in a mess because our mental attitude opposed the principles of decent human existence.

The principle says ‘Do what is right and pleasing in the Lord’s sight that the land you dwell in may favor you and not eject you’ but we want to do selfishly. We believe it was right to be greedy. We believe it was right to liquidate government agencies so that our children and those of our compatriot found it hard to get a decent existence after school. We believe in pillaging corporations and using the monies to fund private concerns abroad. We applauded mediocrity and blackmailed or destroyed whoever believed in merit as obstacles that stood in our way. So, here we are eating the fruits of our doing.

But how I wished government was not doing this verification exercise for these former employees’. I mean it!

Comrade Ifeanyichukwu Mmoh is an advocate for attitudinal change, a researcher and authored (THE ORIGIN OF IGBO MARGINALIZATION IN NIGERIA). 08062577718.