The Federal Government has announced the commitment to commence monthly payments of N25,000 to vulnerable pensioners has generated mixed reactions.
While many have commended the government for the move, others are of the opinion that it is like a drop of water in a big ocean.
Toptrends Nigeria recalls that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Betta Edu, has announced the government’s plan as captured in the National Social Register of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), when she met with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, in Abuja.
He stated that the decision to include the retired civil servants in the scheme was part of President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to labor leaders which he was determined to implement to the letter.
“The President mentioned very clearly that vulnerable pensioners should immediately be captured on the National Social Register to be able to benefit from the Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT, as part of the national social safety net expansion. And this was made clear in his speech on Independence Day, where he committed N25, 000 for 15 million households for three months,” which she announced during the meeting earlier in the month.
She thanked the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and urged them to help fast-track the process of collating data of the likely beneficiaries, so that they could start receiving the CCT immediately
“I want us to fast-track this. If we can get this data and information within two weeks, we are sure that you will be beneficiaries immediately, and you can start earning from next month which is November, that’s the main reason why I’m here, Dr. Edu told the labor leaders.”
NLC President, Joe Ajaero, while responding, also commended the ministry for the various poverty alleviation schemes it has rolled out, and also applauded the minister’s passion and commitment to her job.
He equally noted that the best way to tackle poverty in the country is by getting to the root cause.
“Let us not only look at how to solve this problem but also the root cause of it, because if we continue to treat the effects of poverty without getting to the cause, it will persist. Let us look at other social welfare interventions and job creation that will go a long way to supporting families,” he said in response to the government’s initiative.
President of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Godwin Abumisi, also praised President Tinubu and the Minister, for finding the retirees worthy of the federal government’s benefits.
He cried out that most pensioners received as low as between N5,000 and N10,000 per month, and expressed joy that N25,000 was a big money to the pensioners. He commended the minister for her exceptional performance so far and urged her to keep up the speed.
However, one of those who said that the intervention is a drop in the ocean considering the current economic realities in Nigeria is the president of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus.
He equally commended the government for improving the take-home pay of pensioners as the cost of living is very high but lamented that Nigerians, including the pensioners, are in the current situation because the Federal Government, without proper consultation, or with wrong advice, decided to completely remove subsidy on petrol.
“And that is what created all the problems. But, even without removing the subsidy, there was the need to increase the take-home pay of pensioners and other salary earners.”
“So now, with the removal of subsidy, the addition of N25,000 is just a drop in the ocean because the price of everything has skyrocketed, and just a few items would wipe out that N25,000,” he stated.”
He argued that there is no better time to fix the country’s refineries than now, as he urged the government to revisit the fuel subsidy removal to see how it could retouch it to bring about improvement in the people’s welfare.
He also noted that the idea to pay pensioners N25,000 was commendable but regretted that it was coming late as the damage had already been done.
He said: “It is necessary for the Federal Government to fix our refineries and revisit the issue of fuel subsidy. I think the decision to remove fuel subsidies in the first place was ill-advised.”
“Nobody is saying that the fuel subsidy should not be removed, but there should have been a staggered process, while other means of livelihood are being improved, including for example, saying that before you remove X percentage of subsidy, you would have converted so many vehicles to the usage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG.
“Then, there would be some removal again and some other measures would have been taken and it wouldn’t have affected the economy the way it has. So, to me, assisting our pensioners is a good one, but it is something that is coming late in the day. The damage has already been done.”
An Associate Professor of Medical Imaging, and lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Dr. Ugwu Anthony, also commended the government for the intervention but equally insisted that it won’t be able to cushion the effect of what is happening now.
He expressed fear that it could be another avenue to enrich some individuals.
“I just hope it will not be another avenue to embezzle public funds. All in all, it is good but it will not be able to take care of the situation on the ground for the pensioners because Nigerians are generally suffering,” he submitted while responding to the inquiry.
However, the President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, commended the government’s move, saying that since the situation was not normal, the approach to resolve the challenge couldn’t be normal either.
“The fact is that we are already faced with challenges. There is inflation all over the land and there is no money anywhere.
“So, if the government has decided to help the pensioners, with proper documentation, I think it is a welcome development. It is better to have half-bread than nothing. At least the government has made an attempt to say it understands what the pensioners are going through,” he told our correspondent.
Also speaking, a legal practitioner and former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Maxi Okwu believes that dishing out an N25,000 monthly grant to vulnerable pensioners will not solve any problem.
According to him, rather than solve any problem, it would add to the inflation figure.
“Naira is sliding seriously and instead of finding a lasting solution to it, the government is busy dashing hand-outs. The refineries should be fixed. What can N25,000 buy for anybody in the current economy, where the value of the naira is almost like that of tissue paper? The government should just sit up and do something to put the economy back on track,” he advised.
For a former member of the Katsina State House of Assembly, Yusuf Shehu, the program will not work.
“All these programs that the government is trying to carry out as a way of cushioning the effect of fuel subsidy removal will not work.”
“How many pensioners do we have that will benefit from palliative? We are concerned about the generality of Nigerians. The population of Nigeria is about 200 million people.”
“Out of this number, maybe, between three and five million people are pensioners, what happens to the rest of Nigerians that are equally suffering as a result of the subsidy removal?”
He noted that even though the federal government has given the state governments N2 billion each for the same purpose, it has not helped matters because people are still suffering.
“He urged the government to do something urgently to address the hunger that is ravaging over 70 percent of Nigerian households.”
“There is hunger in the land. The government should just sit down with its economic team and find a lasting solution to the issue of subsidy removal. Look at the exchange rate; $1 is equal to N1000, how can the common man survive? The government should focus seriously on the problem facing the country because Nigerians are suffering.”
“Many people cannot afford to buy fuel at the current price to travel for businesses, and even to go to work. Some states have reduced the working days from five to three days because workers can no longer afford to go to work five days a week, particularly teachers and health workers in rural areas.
“So, the N25,000 to vulnerable pensioners will not have any impact because the percentage of the beneficiaries is nothing to write home about,” he submitted.
However, a Niger Delta activist, Seigha Manager, described the exercise as a shame.
According to him, no responsible government anywhere in Western society would do what the government is doing. He lamented that Nigerians have just been blindfolded otherwise they would not accept what is happening in Nigeria.
He questioned what the fate of millions of other Nigerians would be if the government is only concerned about the pensioners and serving workers, even as he stressed that the N25,000 would not do anything for anybody, considering the current inflation rate in the country.
“What will happen to Okada riders, market women, unemployed graduates? So many people have been displaced by the system.
“Unfortunately the labor unions, the NLC and TUC, are basically working with the government because of the payoff system that will benefit them. They are not working for Nigerians and it is very sad.”
“The program is not well thought out. If it was properly thought out, every Nigerian should benefit from it. Anything that will displace some Nigerians for the benefit of others is not acceptable. It is quite unfortunate that the government is doing this.”
But, for the members of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, it is a welcome development.
The Union’s Public Relations Officer, PRO, Bunmi Ogunkola said the pensioners are grateful to the President as the cash reward would be a significant relief to them.
He said: “We are very grateful to the Minister of Humanitarian affairs. We thank Mr. President for the gesture. It will go a long way to relieving the pensioners’ economic pain.”
He disagreed with those who said it was coming late and might not change anything, wondering how those who are not pensioners would be able to know what the pensioners are going through.
“Some people may say it is not enough, but are those people ready to give us N25,000? They are not pensioners, so they can’t understand our plight. So, they should leave us alone; we are happy with the money,” he said.
He noted that what is in contention is not whether the N25,000 would relieve their pain but how the government can extend the period beyond three months.
He said: “The only thing is that the period of three months is too short. In fact, we are asking the government to extend the cash award beyond three months.”
“We want the payment to start first in October as promised, but we also want the government to see how it can extend it beyond three months because it will do a lot for us.”