President Tinubu, reject retirement bill for Natl Assembly workers


President Tinubu, reject retirement bill for Natl Assembly workers

Bola Tinubu


AFTER a period of back-and-forth, the National Assembly has controversially acceded to pressures from the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria to extend the retirement age of civil servants attached to NASS from 60 to 65. In the face of poor national economy in which Nigeria’s debt is 37.2 per cent to GDP, this is another glaring instance of parliamentary inanity. Straightaway, President Bola Tinubu should refuse his assent to the bill.


At a recent plenary session, the Senate, after first rejecting the bill, concurred with the House of Representatives. Proposed for concurrence by Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central), the Majority Leader of the Senate, with the argument to preserve institutional memory, the bill received support from most senators. It has thus reached its third reading.


This argument by the Senate is hollow. Indeed, this is a bad bill, lacking any overarching economic value and being made just to satisfy political whims. It is counterproductive, and further sabotages the uniformity of the standard civil service retirement rules. The long-standing law is that a civil servant works for 35 years or retires at 60, whichever comes first. The PASAN bill repudiates all this by proposing 40/65 years.


The bill runs at counter-purposes with the current attempts to rejig the Federal Civil Service, reduce the cost of governance, and salvage the gross unemployment rate in the country.

The parliament claimed that it is the practice in the United Kingdom and the United States. In Nigeria, extending the years of service will in no way mitigate the high joblessness, as it will extend the retirement ages of the current PASAN members by another five years. In the UK, the unemployment rate is 3.8 per cent and 3.70 per cent in the US.


This bill creates other problems: there will be restricted job openings for the teeming graduates. It will also balloon the cost of governance and pensions.


As of the third quarter of 2023, unemployment rose from 4.2 per cent to 5.0 per cent. It was pegged at 33.3 per cent by the National Bureau of Statistics in Q1 2023 before the recent statistical modification. According to Statisense, youth unemployment rose from 6.9 per cent (Q1) to 7.2 per cent (Q2) and 8.6 per cent in Q3 2023.


Really, Nigeria is in a socioeconomic quagmire. It expends 98 per cent of its revenue on debt servicing. At least 63 per cent of its population was multidimensionally poor as of 2022, per NBS survey. That must have increased by now. With the economy in turmoil, Nigeria grapples with personnel costs. The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan, aggregated the number of federal employees at 720,000.


Beforehand, NASS should have considered the fact that PASAN members are not different from other civil servants.


This bill would deepen the clamour for an extension of retirement ages from other civil servants, which the Nigerian Labour Congress mooted in May 2023.


The crusade for an upward review was contentiously energised by Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari. Without factoring in all the merits and demerits of it, Buhari unwisely increased the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years in 2022.


As part of the 46 amendment bills of the 1999 Constitution, the Ninth NASS passed a bill to increase the retirement age of Federal High Court judges from 65 to 70 years. It said it based this on the need to have uniformity of retirement age in the judiciary.


But Tinubu must not follow suit. He must dispense with socioeconomic illogicality and focus on sustainable policies that will drive the economy and reduce the cost of governance.


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