The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent an open letter to Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State requesting him to use his good offices and leadership position to “urgently pay Edo State pensioners over 42 months outstanding pension benefits and entitlements from the over N29 billion Paris Club refunds received by your government and meant for the payment of pension arrears and gratuities.”
The organization asked Obaseki to “spend the Paris Club refunds to pay all outstanding pension benefits within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute appropriate international and regional legal proceedings to compel your state to discharge its constitutional and international human rights obligations to Edo pensioners.
In the letter dated 8 September 2017 and signed by SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale, the organization expressed “concern about the treatment of the situation of Edo pensioners from a “humanitarian” and “charity” perspective. This approach by your government to addressing the conditions of pensioners in your state ignores their human rights, and the fundamental equality of individuals, and deny Nigeria of the potential contribution of pensioners to reaching national developmental objectives and goals.
The organization also expressed “serious concern that the failure to pay Edo pensioners their outstanding benefits and entitlements has continued to leave them with chronic poverty, untreated illness, inadequate access to medical treatment, abuse, and ultimately, unnecessary and untimely deaths. Yet, pensioners are entitled to human rights, as an important part of their dignity, protection and financial security.”
The letter read in part: “SERAP notes that pensioners need special protection especially given their economic, social and political vulnerability but the repeated failure by your government to spend the received Paris Club refunds to pay all outstanding pension benefits in your state has continued to prevent their access to equal treatment and enjoyment of their constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights. Edo pensioners are now at heightened risk of long term discrimination, abuse, exclusion, isolation and marginalization.
“SERAP has been fully briefed by Edo pensioners both at local government and state levels about their plight and continuing denial of their human rights to dignity, equality and non-discrimination by your government.
“According to our information, your government has so far received from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari three tranches of the Paris Club refunds totally over N29 billion, between November 2016 and July 2017. Yet your government has failed, refused and/or neglected to pay over 42 months pension benefits as well as agreed increase in benefits, despite repeated requests by the pensioners and their families.
“SERAP is concerned about the persistence of considerable levels of poverty to which Edo pensioners have been subjected. We note that your government has a legal obligation to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all pensioners in Edo State, consistent with your expressed commitment to social development, human rights, equality and non-discrimination.
“SERAP notes that article 25 paragraph 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that, ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights therefore shows that the rights to adequate standard of living and well-being are for every human being, including pensioners. Indeed, the principles of equality and non-discrimination apply to those rights, and provide that individuals and families are entitled to their human rights, regardless of age.
“SERAP also notes that your government has a legal obligation to protect vulnerable individuals including pensioners in Edo State by taking measures to ensure that they are not denied their human rights, and deprived of their access to basic necessities of life.
“SERAP believes that ignorance of the value of empowerment of pensioners jeopardises progress towards achieving Edo State developmental goals.”
SERAP therefore urged governor Obaseki to:
- Urgently pay Edo State pensioners over 42 months outstanding pension benefits and entitlements from the over N29 billion Paris Club refunds received by your government and meant for the payment of pension arrears and gratuities;
- Adopt a human rights policy of guaranteeing regular payment of pension benefits and entitlements so that pensioners and their families can live decently;
- Recognize the human rights of Edo State pensioners and ensure their full and effective enjoyment of those rights, as well as provide them with information to enable them to claim their rights;
- Treat all pensioners in Edo State as individuals with humanity and dignity and respect and promote their higher standard of living and improve economic and social conditions for all pensioners;
- Provide Edo State pensioners with proper support and assistance to alleviate their plight, including by ensuring informal, community-based and recreation-oriented programs for pensioners to help develop their sense of self-reliance and independence;
- Reduce opportunities for corruption in the spending of the Paris Club refunds so far received by your government