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Why Public Officers Are Scared Of Retirement —Abubakar

| October 10, 2012 More

Alhaji Danladi Abubakar is the Bauchi State Chairman of Local Government Pension Board. In this interview with our correspondent, NAJIB SANI, he spoke on the numerous problems militating against the board especially issues bordering on inadequate funds to settle outstanding gratuities and pension areas of retirees, and lots more.

The recent disengagement of political appointees by the Bauchi state government has caused serious comments especially by the affected persons. What is your reaction on that?

They should understand that Governor Isa Yuguda should not be blamed and I want to sympathize with their situation but the fact is that the governor initially appointed seven distinguished personalities including myself to work out modalities for such appointments. The governor has a good intention towards that as he told us the amounts he is going to pay for the different categories of the then would be appointees. At the end of the exercise, we came out with modalities on how to make the appointments which to the best of our knowledge and perception would be favorable to both the government and the would be appointed political aides where each of the 20 local governments will not cry of foul play. We sat down and strategized the plan after which we presented it to the governor who expressed his satisfaction with what we had done. But we told him there is something left. In the past, we knew that if you give contracts to close associates and after selling it, they would dedicate some certain percentage to followers who mostly were not opportuned to meet with the governor but now the reverse is the case. We suggested that party executives from ward level identify ten people who have labored for the party at the ward level to be screened by the party officials before forwarding it to the governor through the seven man committee for final approval which the governor accepted and it was based on that the governor made the political appointments. But all of a suddenly, one of the closest associates of the governor went to him shedding tears, saying that there is no justification in the whole exercise and the governor mandated him to go and do justice in the appointments. Our thinking is that there is no where a person who is based in Bauchi will know about the youths in Gamawa, Zaki or Jama’are local government areas, hence our decision to engage the advice or blessing of party chairmen in their respective local governments for the political appointments.

 

Then how come the negative development of disengagements?

But the acclaimed rectification of the political appointments by the said close associate of the governor were misused as it reached a situation where one person will collect appointments of ten to fifty people and the worst part of it, one day when the Governor visited Lagos state, about 120 Yorubas came to him thanking him for giving them appointments in Bauchi state which the governor was surprised, and there was a commercial bank that approached the governor and complained to him that it is only in this government that ten or twenty and even more people could be found operating single account for the purpose of receiving salary or stipends which the bank rejected. So, these irregularities prompted the Governor to sack all the political appointees with the aim of constituting another committee to authenticate the genuine list that would be appointed to serve in the government. So whoever is in the position of Malam Isa he would do the same thing at least instead to sanitise the system as the only solution to the problems. The governor is ready to appoint and pay such political appointees no matter the amounts involved considering their contributions to the political development of the state, but surprisingly, some of those said to be close to the government ended up selling the appointments to satisfy their selfish interest. The state government is targeting to engage 20,000 youths gradually and don’t forget even the FG is targeting just 10,000 and has never been exhausted, so the government is trying to engage youths in the state. Whoever is contributing to the progress of the state should be encouraged and invariably, what we are doing is jihad, so people should assist us to accomplish the vision.

 

As Chairman Local Government pension Board in the state, what is your assessment of the pension issues generally?

The issue of pension is a serious matter even though many people don’t want to talk about pensioners in the country but I have concern for them considering that I started work even before the first military coup in the country. What really surprised me is that in the whole world, it is only in Nigeria that retired army officers are humiliated or dehumanized and don’t forget, it is only the Nigerian army that fought to their best for the unity and progress of the country. I have seen a retired military governor who served the country moving from one office to another looking for means of survival, which is a disgrace to the nation. People like General Ibrahim Babangida despite the fact he has wealth and is living but he will be happy if all his entitlements are paid to him at the appropriate time. There was a time when I was introduced to former president Muhammad Buhari who said to me you have a problem and I keep wondering what sort of statement was that until I asked him to explain to me what he meant and General Buhari said not that problem I’m thinking of but being a former Head of state, I can assure you that government is yet to pay me my pension arrears.

Another issue to consider was that since the creation of Nigeria we have never had a robbery attack on banks with bombs until this time around and don’t forget, no civilian knows how to handle bombs only security people know how to handle it and they are the ones being neglected and if not because of these elderly army officers, Nigeria would have been a different country by now. So I’m sure President Goodluck Jonathan may not know these problems because those close to him may not tell him the truth because of fear, I have rated the President since his assumption in office, despite his little exposure compared to previous Heads of State or Presidents, he has escaped many hurdles and I think the best way to support this gentleman is to pray for his success as he has good vision for the country.

There are various methods or modes of operation civilian administration used to adopt to ensure success in its governance and constant payment of pension to these retired military officers is one of it. One of the obstacles he might have faced is that of the National Assembly and even members of the National Assembly when they visited Bauchi have confirmed the pension debt profile but the problem is that of the federal government as it don’t normally pay its contribution as at when due instead always relied on so-called verification exercise where those expecting pensions amounting to N50,000 ended up getting N10,000 to worsen the situation. Don’t forget that the FG never defaulted in remitting their contribution to the fund as is there in trillions of naira but the problem lies with pension administrators that leaves beneficiaries dying on the streets without getting their benefits. So if those people engage in armed robbery one should not blame them because they were cheated together with their families.

If the President would take drastic measures against the pension administrators, Nigerians especially pensioners will be very happy, as we know he loves Nigerians and has good vision for the country. But if he didn’t take appropriate action then it would take us ten years or so without paying the pensioners and they would continue to die without enjoying their benefits. And he should ensure right from the rank of Captain all their entitlements are paid to their account as at when due without any undue bureaucracy and to make sure monthly pensions are paid before 26th of every month, as the only way out. The President should make monthly findings to ensure prompt payment to sanitise the system as you know we heard that some of the fund management officers caught with billions of naira at their homes. Let me tell you sincerely speaking the inability of the government to settle the pensioners also contributed to the high rate of insecurity in the country and once this is solved it will reduce the insecurity.

 

Still on pension matters. There is a suggestion that the pension money should be invested.

Whoever told you that one will loan pension monies to other sectors is telling lies, when the pension managers are running helter-skelter looking for money on a daily basis to settle pension arrears. Our major headache is those who have died as they don’t have pensions, no means of livelihood before their death and they have a lot of children to take care but those who are alive and are not receiving pension and I complained to the Governor on this which warranted my travelling to Abuja and he has shown his concern as he directed me to submit a memo to the cash flow committee of which he is the chairman. But you know how running government is especially as his attention is needed at both state and federal levels. The governor is engaged as he is a member of the nation economic council, national council of state, and so forth in addition to his state functions, so we should not be bothering him rather we should support him to perform.

 

How much is the state receiving as federal pension contribution

Before we used to receive N102 million monthly but after our complaint, the government is now giving us N141m and we used to pay pensions of N100m monthly. We used to have about 3000 pensioners on monthly pay-roll. We are waiting for the federal government to pay us about N2.3billion as its backlog contributions. We were able to get only N560m from the state government which enabled us to pay backlog of pension arrears last time and the beneficiaries enjoyed it when we paid them. I’m tired of travelling to Abuja to pursue the pension contribution that is not forthcoming as at when due; rather I will henceforth wait back for them to send it to us for subsequent payments to beneficiaries.

 

Sir, being a stakeholder what do you think is the way out of the problems of payment of pensions that have engulfed the northern parts of the country?

There are so many ways of solving the problems, they all revolve around  money, I mean revenue accruable to government , and one of such ways is the establishment of marketing boards for the Northern produce or commodities. Before, if you are a farmer government will come to your door steps to measure the food commodity you produced and buy it instantly without any headache, I used to produce about 500 bags as a small farmer but at the end I find it difficult to sell as I ended up giving it free to some people. This season I sold food product worth N600, 000 I used the money to buy fertilizer. So you can see I’m doing the farming not for profit but just to be participating in the production at least to ease some family, local or national problem. So if government will revive the marketing boards it will sustain the sub region. The Bank of the North commenced operation based on this motives by late Sardauna who spearheaded the establishment of the bank in Kano considering that if you give them loan, they easily return it and from the profit government then used to fund payment of salaries, other government operations and even politics.

Northern region can sustain itself without depending on oil money as was done in the past; we should forget about oil funds and concentrate on marketing boards as we are determined to embark on massive agricultural production, even solid minerals exploration which the north has in abundance or commercial quantities, as the only solution to most of our social and economic problems in the region. Within two to three years we will overcome all our problems.

 

Some people are clamoring for the creation of state police as the only solution to the high rate of insecurity in the country. What is your reaction to that?

Those who are making such calls are myopic and are doing it just to protect their tribes not Nigerians; they are neither good Christians nor Muslims. By establishing state police then what will be the fate of Igbo people that are living in our states or Northerners that will be in the southern part of the country? It is only selfish people that are promoting disharmony among Nigerians using tribe or religion. Muslims and Christians must understand that we have to live together because even during the era of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) he interacted with Christians, I personally groomed Christians in my home and we live peacefully. It’s unfortunate that our politicians of nowadays are using religion to satisfy their selfish interests. Our youth should understand that some people are trying to use them to create unrest in the society, they should reject such offers for the betterment of the country.

 

What is your opinion on the 7-year single term for president or Governors?

My opinion is seven year single term for President and Governors could be the best for our country, you know before you run for any elective office your close associates will contribute to ensure your victory and after the election, the first one year is to try to compensate such people and settle to serve the electorates. But the present four year first term normally ends up embezzling public funds, promoting political thuggery among the youths just to maintain power while the second term of another four years are used for siphoning money for such office holders to live a wealthy life after one’s tenure. So that is how the first and second tenures end without doing anything for the electorate. Some people are saying we should copy from America, it is not possible, and America spent about 300 years practicing democracy unlike Nigeria that is just starting. The first five years of the seven-year single term could be used to commit about 75% of our resources for youth development especially in giving them proper education, and after studies government should consider giving them N500, 000 soft loan to invest then the remaining two years should be devoted to other developmental purposes. So when citizens are gainfully employed or become self-reliant, most of the social and economic, and even political problems of the country will be solved.

 

Some local governments are complaining about the state government controlling their funds. What is your reaction to that?

I’m not in support of that. Yes, they should be autonomous but it is very dangerous, traditional rulers played a major role towards the unity of the country but today they are not relevant but once something negative happens everybody rushes to them for the way out. We worked together with one LG chairman who whenever salaries are to be paid refused to release funds to the traditional rulers as mandated but would instead direct an emir to go and write his salary proposal to him for vetting before the release of such funds. What kind of indiscipline is that and you expect such attitudes to continue. Let me tell you, if traditional rulers turn their back on government, there will be no peace in this country. Any LG chairman that said his governor is not giving him money is a liar; I was once a local government chairman, I used to tell my officers not to carelessly use funds if the council doesn’t have enough for services, talk less of an elected chairman. They are just pretending so that they would continue siphoning people’s money.

 

Category: Bauchi State News

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