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Verification: Federal retirees lament unending wait for payment

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After a series of verification, which federal retirees had been subjected to over the years, the unpaid pensioners are decrying hardships faced by their members, NIKE POPOOLA writes

Federal retirees who have been verified by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate are calling for immediate payment of their pensions and entitlements to alleviate their lingering hardships.

Many of such pensioners who have gone through a series of verification are wondering if they would find succour in the biometrics conducted by the directorate in charge of their pensions.

They are worried that while they went for verification in 2017 with the hope of getting total solution to their payment problems, they are still waiting endlessly as their plight has not changed.

Mr. Sabiq Daramola retired from the Federal Ministry of Works as an assistant director in 1986 but has not been paid his gratuity.

After attending different verification, he is worried that his problems have not been resolved.

He said, “They did not pay me from 1986 until January 2011 when they started under-paying me but did not pay my arrears. I retired on level 15 step five. I want the payment of my gratuity, correction of short payment and payment of arrears since 1986.

Another retiree, Hussaini Ayodele, said he voluntarily retired in February 1998 and was told he would be matured for pensions in November 2006.

Ayodele explained that his gratuity was paid but he had not been placed on payroll as expected since 2006.

He said, “I have attended series of verification without payment. I was verified in 2011 and participated in the recent one in 2017 but up until now they have not placed me on payroll. After the last verification by PTAD, the directorate promised to pay in December 2017, but they have not paid.”

During the verification of pensioners of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited and its mobile subsidiary, MTEL, in Lagos; a retiree, Austin Onabuse, expressed hope that their entitlements would be paid soon to alleviate their sufferings.

“After the company’s privatisation, NITEL retirees were paid pensions for five years after which they stopped paying us and since then, the struggle to ensure we are paid had continued,” he said.

33 per cent increase

In December, PTAD paid another instalment of the outstanding 33 per cent pension increase to federal retirees under the Defined Benefit Scheme.

Police pensioners were paid 12 months arrears making a total of 24 months payment from previous instalment. The police still have an outstanding of 18 months.

Civil service pensioners got six months payment from the latest instalment making a total of 30 months. These pensioners still have an outstanding of 12 months.

Parastatal pensioners were paid six months arrears in this instalment, making a total of 18 months received so far. They still have an outstanding of 36 months.

PTAD said all pensioners under Customs, Immigration and Prison Pensions Department had already been paid the 33 per cent arrears in full.

It added that the latest payment was made from the Service Wide Vote released by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

PTAD said it would settle the outstanding arrears of the 33 per cent increment as soon as additional releases were made.

The Chairman, Federal Concerned Pensioners, Mr. David Adodo, said pensioners were still suffering in silence.

Ikeazor, Adodo

While speaking on the part payment of the outstanding 33 per cent, he said, “PTAD claimed to pay us our arrears of 33 per cent but gave people about N6,000 and N4,000 and claimed it paid arrears. PTD paid me N18,000; some were paid N11,000 for six months.

“How did it arrive at that figure? Billions of naira has been given for the payment but we are paid meagre amount.”

He expressed worry that retirees were not paid their pensions immediately after they were verified despite their high hopes and expectations.

According to him, in 2011, the Pension Reform Task Team did verification of pensioners and some of them got paid immediately with GTB cheques.

“After this recent verification, we have the records of pensioners that have died without collecting their money,” he said.

Adodo explained that verification was necessary to ascertain the number of pensioners government was paying so that it could determine how much to release.

“What is the essence of computer age when you cannot do verification under three months and pay the people their entitlements?” he queried.

He said that pension in Nigeria had turned to a subject of mockery and the industry was being run by a pension agency that did not understand the principle of proper placement of pensioners’ grade levels.

Adodo said there was no integrity in the system because many pensioners had not been paid for the past 10 years.

“Many pensioners have been traumatised, psychologically battered and have become nuisance to their families and friends because of non-payment of their entitlements,” he said.

He said that the retirees had lost hope in the system, adding that many of them could not pay for their feeding and rent.

“When PTAD wanted to do the verification, they promised to pay us within four months but they are now saying March. Families have been broken; the directorate cannot even pay monthly pensions correctly. I am challenging the government to review the activities of PTAD,” he said.

Unending wait

Some of the problems confronting the Nigerian pensioners include non-payment of gratuity and pension, and omission from and arbitrary delisting of retirees from the payroll.

Even those on the payroll are not happy because their pensions are not regular and many of them are being short-changed.

Abraham Adigun, 71, is one of the retirees of the Federal Government who worked with the Ministry of Defence.

He said, “I was employed in the Ministry of Defence in 1980 and retired in 1998 after which I got my gratuity and the payment of my pensions commenced. But in 2010, my name was removed from the payroll for no reason and I have been lodging several complaints and was asked to fill several forms but my money has not yet been paid,” he explained.

While pleading with them to pay what rightly belonged to him, he said that things had been very difficult for him because he could not eat good food or pay his medical bills.

The Executive Secretary, PTAD, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, said that federal retirees who had not been earning pensions would be placed on payroll few months after the verification.

During the verification of federal civil service pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme, in Lagos last year, she said that the Federal Government was working out modalities to settle the arrears of its retirees’ pensions.

Ikeazor said, “Between four and five months after verification, those not on the payroll will be returned and start earning pensions. All those on the payroll are being verified and if they have any other complaint, it will be rectified in this verification.”

According to her, the Federal Government pays a monthly pension of N7.5bn to retirees in the old pension scheme, and these funds were always released regularly.

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