BY AUSTIN OYIBODE
ONE law in the Nigerian civil service is that every civil servant will retire after serving either the federal or state government for a period of 35 years or having attained the age of 60 years. This implies that every wise civil servant is to make investment and all kinds of preparations against retirement so as not to pass through pains and agonies that accompany retirement. This is true as the retiree will no longer be entitled to all the fringe benefits that are part of the civil service. While the wise are prudent in their spending during active service, the unwise are always busy squandering the salary with the belief that every month the money will come.
This formed part of the get-together of members of the Social Welfare Scheme of the Post Primary Education Board, Asaba last weekend. Staged to honour some of their staff that are due for retirement before the end of the year, it was also used to inculcate in the staff who are still fully in active service the need to prepare for the rainy days. Chairman of the welfare association, Mrs. Anne Nwaokolo, in her address to the staff dwelt on the need for serving civil servants to be mindful of their spending as retirement years are fast getting close to every civil servant.
According to her, the gathering is always organized for the benefit of retired members whose exit falls within the period of the event. She said the essence of the gathering, outside preparing the people against retirement years, was also to recreate a sense of oneness and help cushion the effect of the pains associated with processing retirement benefits. This is true as most retirees pass through untold hardship in a bid to process their verification papers before being paid their retirement benefits. Others who have retired for so many years and have grown extremely old become a burden to their guardians who would carry them to the centres of clearance and verification. Some, in this process, pass on to the great beyond.
In the event which lasted for almost two hours, Mrs. Nwaokolo informed the staff who are about retiring of the fact that they are stepping into a new world as it is different from where they have been for the past 35 years. She encouraged the staff whom she described as senior citizens to face the remaining part of their lives with prayers, prudence and walk with God with sincerity of mind. In her words, “senior citizens, it is pertinent to mention that you are stepping out to a new direction, I urge you to be prayerful, prudent, careful and sincere in your dealings while on our part we pray to God to guide, direct and protect you”.
A director in the Post Primary Education Board who is set to retire before the year closes, Mr. Innocent Ijei, said working for 35 years or retiring at 60 is an interesting experience. He expressed gratitude to the scheme on behalf of his colleagues who are leaving service at the same period. Ijei, who is Director of Personnel Management in the board, however, called on the staff to improve in their services and be wise financial managers. He said there was room for improvement having observed some lapses in the service.
For those who are still in the service, he charged them not to be content with their present positions as the best place to stop is the top. For those who are still in the periphery or are working with the lowest certificates, he urged them to upgrade themselves so as to secure opportunity to the top. He dissuaded them against contentment, arguing that until one gets to the peak of one’s career, there should be no stop. He told them that if he could get to the position of a director with others as Permanent Secretaries, there is no position any of them cannot get to if they so wish and work towards it. In his words, “strive to the top. Don’t rest on your oars so that you don’t leave service the way you came. Embark on your own pension plan”.
He lamented a situation where some persons would call on government officials to give them opportunity to serve for two or three more years so as to organize themselves, saying “if you cannot organize yourself for 35 years, how can you organize yourself for two years?” He said civil servants dread retirement because they are not prepared for it. They live their lives as if they will remain permanently in government office. No wonder, many falsify their age so as to perpetuate themselves in service.
Mr. Ijei charged unions in the various organisations to organize seminars for retiring members so as to prepare them for retirement years. “Unions should go beyond collecting checkup dues but work towards the welfare of members by organizing seminars and programmes to prepare them for life after retirement. This is so because retirees fear the aftermath of retirement;” he said.