By Mustapha Jallow
Alhagie Alieu Faal, a pensioner and former employee of GUC now ‘National Water and Electricity Company’ (NAWEC), was on Saturday 12th June 2021 elected as pensioners’ representative on the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) Board of Directors. At least 526 pensioners attended the election but only 335 individuals voted.
Faal was declared the 2021 winner of the pensioners’ elections after defeating two of his opponents.
Smiles and joy can be seen on the faces of most pensioners as they jubilated his victory with the strong believed that he will serve them better and will ensure that their demands and concerns are addressed.
Before the election, SSHCF officials allowed pensioners to raise their concerns on the issues affecting them.
In his first words to his fellow pensioners, Mr. Faal said the following: “I will not be able to pay you back, but what I promise you, will surely be done,” Faal told his fellow pensioners; that he is in the fight with them and that the pain they are going through, is the same with the one he faces.
According to Faal, pensioners have raised lots of issues that affect them; that Gambian pensioners suffer much because they depend on their small monthly payments for their livelyhoods.
“D1, 200 cannot afford a bag of rice. This is what pensioners are paid at the end of the month,” Faal said.
With the hike of commodities and challenges in the country, Faal said the concerns of pensioners need urgent attention because they are human beings who need to live good lives with their families.
Faal said actuarial valuation should be reviewed and addressed because this affects pensioners’ welfare.
Faal said he believed SSHCF can wipe the tears of pensioners because they have the finance and capacity to do so.
“The saddest thing is pensioners do not enjoy their contributed monies to the SSHFC. This is painful and needs to be addressed,” he alleged.
Faal further promised to address this problem once he gets into office, saying they will engage the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary on this matter; that they will mobilise Government pensioners as one body.
“We will see how best we can get a representative at the National Assembly because only then will our problems be solved,” he said.
In terms of capacity, Faal said he will raise Gambia’s pension scheme to international standards as a member of the countries that benefit from the International Pensions Federation; that with the way the association is progressing, they will be able to pay Hospital bills and other needs for pensioners; that the pensioner’s association is able to raise half a million dalasi through contributions from members at D5 each; that if all pensioners are able to come together, they will raise more than this amount.
“In my term, I will not allow what happened in the past. And I will make sure everything that occurred within the board is brought to the notice of members,” he said. “Pensioners will survive. And I will send a message to the Manager because whatever I am saying, will be the voice of pensioners who elected me to represent them.”
Faal said his engagement with Management will not be centred on politics, saying what they want is members’ contributions to be ploughed back to them.
Adoulie Tambedou, the Managing Director of SSHFC said the last time interest was paid on the National Provident Fund (NPF) savings was in the year 2015 and that this was at a very low rate of 0.19% per annum. He said there has been no interest paid for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, mainly as a result of very low returns from the investment of the NPF.
Geoffrey Renner, the then pensioners representative, said he objected to the way certain practices and policies of the previous management which were not in the interest of members. He alleged that his action did not go down well with the then SSHCF management, saying it created a rift between them.
“I did it for the interest of pensioners,” Mr. Renner concludes.