Anambra state government is soon to introduce a monthly welfare package for non pensionable elders in the state. The wife of the state governor, Mrs Margaret Peter Obi who stated this in Awka however clarified that only elderly persons who have attained the age of 75 or above would benefit from the package.
The occasion was the celebration of the elderly at the Women Development Centre, Awka organized by the ministry of women affairs and social development where she gave out N10,000 each to two most elderly persons from each of the 21 local government areas. Awards were also presented to the most elderly woman in the state, Mrs Theresa Osita Debo from Umukwa village in Awka South LGA. She was aged 102.
It is now a historical fact that the number of non pensionable Nigerians increased by leaps and bounds within the military era of General Murtalla Mohammed of blessed memory. The so-called Rationalization Exercise in the early eighties in the federal public service was sweepingly executed with the policy anchored on state of origin. Thousands of otherwise hardworking Nigerians and well qualified public servants were compulsory retired from the service just because their states of origin were home to other serving public servants.
The policy was so ruthlessly and callously enforced that corporate bodies were given the number of serving public servants to retain in the federal public service. The scenario was typically Nigerian as the dreaded Nigerian factor – ethnicity, nepotism, bribery and corruption played itself out maximally.
By then, the pensionable age was 15, years. A hard-working and honest programmes staff in the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN Enugu who had less than two weeks to clock 15 years in the service lost his footing and was shown the way out like so many others not anchored to big names in the society. In fact, the entire exercise played to the fore the inadvisability of being patriotic, honest and devoted in the Nigerian context.
Thousands of the victims died out of frustration because of the suddenness of the retrenchment virus whose devastation is still haunting those who survived the initial anguish and trauma.
Anambra state government ought to be commended for this life saving vision designed to render succour to the unfortunate ones who host their jobs not because of inefficiency or other personal idiosyncratic traits but statism. No other state government has taken pains to identify itself with this peculiar welfare package to minimize the pains of years of military dictatorship. The policy however could still be further fine tuned to broaden its base. This entails lowering the age limit of 75 years.
With mortality rate these days averaging at 60 or 65, there may be only few elders to enjoy the welfare package now that longevity has become an unaffordable luxury. Other state governments should queen into the programme to provide for their elderly ones since the establishment of Home for the Elderly is still unpopular in this part of the world.