NPAN, NGE, BON, NUJ And Retired Journalists

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As the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) holds its biennial convention starting this morning in Lagos, members and the leadership of the body should find a window in the activity-packed three-day gathering to reflect on the painful fate of retired or unemployed journalists who are living either on inadequate pension or no pension at all. Doing so would be a form of follow-up on the Ada Resort convention where the theme was on the uncertain economic wellbeing of editors when they take leave of their powerful posts as editors.

 

It will also be a re-enactment of an aspect of the 2017 biennial gathering at the same venue in Lagos where officials of Trust Fund Pensions Limited made a presentation on “Pension Fund for Editors: Managing your tomorrow today.” The leadership of the Guild or staff of its secretariat should update members on the progress made so far on devising a pension scheme for editors and other editorial personnel. This will assure members that the “After the Chair” presentations at Ada and the talk by officials of a Pension Fund Administrator in April 2017 were more than speaking fine English.

The after-service life most journalists live is unpleasant : no jobs, no savings to fall back on and lacking in the physical strength and skills to engage in economic activities outside journalism compounded it all. The case of the retired staff of the Kaduna-based influential New Nigerian Newspapers is the most recent pathetic story. The 470-strong retirees have been waiting for their pension arrears for eleven years out of which they were paid the equivalent of five months of their entitlement. There are many other retired journalists, who worked either for private sector media entities or government-owned media organisations who have little or no pension. This is undignifying. And I no longer hear anything on the Journalists Welfare Campaign of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism which was launched in August 2018.

The campaign wants better working conditions for journalists and end their neglect by employers, noting that most media organizations do not pay salaries and benefits like pension, insurance and other statutory requirements. The campaign hopes to reverse that and restore the dignity of Journalist in Nigeria. It should be vigorous. The NUJ in the United Kingdom launched “NUJ 60+” in November 2009 to help retired journalists on issues that affect the quality of their life. The Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) should set up a committee to consider creating a pension scheme for journalists and other workers in media organisations.

The National Pension Commission (PenCom) should be on the Committee to give technical assistance to the proposed committee as it works out a pension plan for journalists. Members of the NPAN and BON may send one or two of their administrative staff to the Abuja School of Pensions and Retirement Planning (ASPRP) to acquire the needed skills and capacity for pension administration in their organizations. This will facilitate a hitch free take-off of pension plans for the journalists working for them. It is especially urgent for privately-owned outlets which do not have such plans.

Most journalists working for government media outlets are likely to be part of a pension plan which may only need improvement for effectiveness. It is real that most Nigerian journalists, no matter the level of their reputation for excellence, often end up in a life of relative hardship, including the big names that pioneered entrepreneurial journalism by becoming publishers and owners of their own outlets. They live below their social and economic status in retirement. They truly deserve better economic buoyancy as pensioners given their enormous contribution to the building of Nigeria and the promotion of its good name. This sad trend should end.