Nation Forgotten Nigeria’s Neglected Pensioners

After decades of service, retired public servants in Nigeria are spending their retirement years in depravation.

‘They don’t care about us. The past state government even referred to us as deadwood,’ a pensioner in Benue state, Alphonsus Anyebe says, visibly piqued. Owed retirement benefits and bereft of options, Nigeria’s elderly public service retirees have turned to laborious farming and other back-breaking trades to stave off hunger. But even subsistence labour is not enough to relieve the poverty caused by the government’s neglect of its duties, especially in paying retirement benefits promptly.

Exact figures on owed retirement benefits in Nigeria are scant. Regardless, in December 2019, Premium Times Nigeria reported that the federal government alone was owing its retirees over ₦400 billion in accrued benefits. Equal to the entire budget of Ogun State for 2019, and more than three times the budget of Niger State for the same year. Apart from the federal government’s ₦400 billion accrued pension debt, individual states, like Abia, were reported to owe as much as 32 months’ worth of monthly payments dating back five years to 2014.

‘The only thing that has kept me going is just my small farming,’ Anyebe, who is 63, says of the farming he does in his backyard that barely provides food for his family. His children cannot go to school and currently sit at home, as he cannot afford to pay their tuition fees. Anyebe is one of many Nigerian pensioners who are unable to pay their children’s school fees because they are owed retirement benefits.

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