Lance Corporal Patrick Ugwoke retired From the Nigerian Air force in 1978. He hails from the University town of Nsukka in Enugu State. Since his retirement, he has been grappling with a myriad of health challenges. Among these are arthritis, eye problems and hearing challenges. His major health problem is a major surgery on his stomach which left a very huge scar. He said he used a large chunk of his gratuity to pay for the surgery which, he said, gulped over 50 percent of the money.
“Occasionally, the scar irritates me and I would think it is going to burst,” Ugwuoke said, adding: “Because of the meagreness of my pension, I cannot not take appropriate medical attention of myself either for the scar, my eye, or ear.” Ugwuoke expressed fear that he might soon go blind if urgent attention was not given to his eyes. The retired officer told Daily Sun in Nsukka that his hope was raised when last February, the Defence Minister promised Air force pensioners that the government was going to implement the National Insurance Scheme for them and increase their pension by about 53 percent. Ugwoke regretted that since the regime of late President Umaru Yar Adua, the Federal Government has not been taking adequate care of Air Force pensioners.
“Only an unwise government and very wicked humans will delay the benefit of an old man who can die at any time,” he said. Ugwoke said his present condition could lead a younger man into crime. “ I tell you, if I were still strong, and passing through this hard time as a result of the nonchalant attitude of government, I could go into crime to make ends meet.” He spoke further: “I am 71 years old saddled with assorted old-age associated ailments. For instance, I can no longer see well or hear well. These can be improved by adequate medical attention, old age not withstanding.
“Last February, during the verification exercise, we were told that the minister said we would benefit from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). Up till now, and we are now in April, nothing has been done. Is it when we have all died that the minister’s promise will be fulfilled? Insurance is for the living, not the dead. After a major operation on the abdomen, I have been experiencing irritation on the scar, which needed urgent medical attention. I have no money to do that. I have eye and ear problems – no money to treat them. I am running the risk of getting blind soonest. “Last February, the minister promised to implement the increase of our pension by 53 percent as was agreed during the Yar’Adua regime.
You can’t promise an old man something and delay it. He can die at any time and miss it. I want President Jonathan to show enough concern to our plight. The present pension is very meagre and the inflation is high. How can we cope? We are suffering in silence. The pension is so poor that, if I am to be strong, I would be tempted to go into crime to make ends meet. Many of us are on the verge of dying. Give us what belongs to us now that we are alive, or our ghost will haunt the nation at death.”