The Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate has been conducting the verification of about 21,000 federal civil service pensioners resident in Lagos. Ebere Nwoji captures their assessment of the exercise
The Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate(PTAD), will tomorrow (Thursday September 28) conclude the 11 days pensioners verification exercise it started in Lagos last week.
The Directorate said this round of verification, which it will extend to other South Western states may be the last pension verification for civil service pensioners in the country, depending on its ability to get credible secured data base for pensioners.
The exercise, which took place in five designated centers in Lagos, has been adjudged by both the pensioners, the Senate Committee on Establishment and Pension as well as the House of Representatives Committee on Pensions who witnessed the exercise as the best so far among other exercises conducted in the past. The Executive Secretary of PTA, Sharon Ikeazor also said she was much more satisfied with the conduct of the exercise.
THISDAY visited some of the centers and the exercise was not rowdy as was the case in the past.
The pensioners were well organised, seated in different locations while the PTAD officials attended to them in very friendly manner.
At the Yaba verification centre located at the popular Lagos State Sports Commission Alagomeji, Yaba, security operatives were seen handling the pensioners in a very peaceful and respected manner.
Unlike in the past when there were squabbles over collection of the verification forms, the forms were given in an orderly manner.
While those who were yet to collect seated quietly outside the main hall where the exercise was conducted, those who had collected were gently ushered in by security operatives to take their seats as they awaited their turn.
Prompt attention was given to very old pensioners and sick ones just as food and drinks were distributed to them. The food was first tested by Ikeazor before distribution to the pensioners.
Some of the documents the pensioners were required to provide for verification included
letter of appointment, letter of confirmation, letter of last promotion, letter of retirement approved by a competent authority, severance pay slip, evidence of change of name where applicable, duly signed and stamped bank statement of accounts, stamped computation sheet, birth certificate, evidence of payment of gratuity, a colored passport photograph, and approved letter of Merger/Condonation from the office of Head of Service of the Federation for those who merged their service.
Some of the pensioners who spoke to THISDAY said they were much more satisfied with the manner PTAD organised the exercise. However some had their reservations about expectations not met.
One of the pensioners Mrs. M. Shonowo, who retired as Commercial Manager, Ministry of Communications Bank Road, Ikoyi said: “The arrangement now is superb. In the past, we were kept under sun and rain. No seat, no priority to elders and sick ones. But because it is a woman that is handling it now, she is very considerate; she has pity, she made provision for the elderly and the sick ones to get prompt attention. It is a good arrangement, God will continually help PTAD, they will know no sorrow they will reap the fruit of their labour.”
Asked if she had done her own verification, she stated: “I have already been verified. I am only waiting for my sister to come out so that we go back. My verification was not stressful, it was better than before. I was able to provide all the documents they required from me, I had complaints before, but it has been rectified.”
Another pensioner, Mrs. Adenike Olajumoke King, who said she worked with the Presidency and retired at grade Level 8, shared her experience in the exercise: “I want to commend PTAD for a job well done. I hope after this, pensioners will be happy to receive their pay. It is well organised compared to the previous ones we have been doing. The difference is that they are well organised than the previous ones; they even gave us food.
She added: “I give PTAD kudos; they tried, they should maintain and improve on the standards. There is no stress; we were not stressed at all.”
On the regularity of her monthly benefits, she said: “I have been collecting my pension regularly, only that I was short-paid, they did not pay me according to my level and my year of service was not well calculated, but it has been rectified.”
But Mrs. Constance IllO, who worked with Ministry of Defence as headmistress of many military primary schools and in military secondary schools before retiring in 1999,said though the verification recorded some improvements, she was not too happy with government because of discrimination in payment of pension benefits between her and her military colleagues.
Comparing the previous verification exercise with the present one, she said that the previous ones were done in one centre hence the stampede suffered by most pensioners, some of who lost their lives in the process.
According to her, the current one was better because they divided it into different centers.
Speaking further, she said: “But I hope they will improve on it because there is always room for improvement.
I worked with Ministry of Defence, I did transfer of service from state to federal. I was headmistress of almost all the military primary schools in Lagos from Bonny Camp to Mile 2, Maryland, and I was posted to secondary schools where I retired. But my annoyance is that all my contemporaries who were uniform men and with whom I was on the same salary level were paid full pension benefits but we the civilians, who they call ‘bloody civilians’ our pension benefits are shared into three. If I tell you what I receive after these years, you will laugh. We complained and they said they will rectify it, but since then, nothing has happened. The uniform men are paid full pension. I retired in August 1999,” she complained.
Asked what she wants to tell government, she queried: “What do you want me to tell Nigerian Government? I worked for them, received their commendation, I taught most of the senior officers, ministers, but today, they don’t recognise us. I thank God I’m alive and my children are helping me”, she stated.
In his assessment of the exercise, Chairman House Committee on Pension, Honourable Hassan Adamu Shekrau, said it was quite impressive.
“I can see pensioners are happy and jubilating being well attended to and that is why I am happy for the exercise. The pensioners said they have not seen it that way before; that was why we left Abuja to come here to see things for ourselves”.
According to PTAD Executive Secretary, about 21,000 pensioners were verified in Lagos.
According to her, the federal government, this year, has so far spent about N67.5 billion in payment of pension benefits to 250,000 pensioners in PTAD’s pay roll.
She promised that shortly after the verification exercise, the pensioners whose names were dropped from PTAD pay roll, who through the exercise have been discovered to be genuine pensioners, will start receiving their monthly benefits.
According to her, the above figure was paid to police pensioners, paramilitary and parastatals pensioners under the Defined Benefit Pension scheme managed by PTAD.
The Defined Benefit Pension scheme is managed by PTAD.
Ikeazor explained that the exercise was a forum for PTAD to verify genuine pensioners because when PTAD was established, it inherited pay roll that was not verified.
“In the exercise, we are capturing their biometrics, their finger prints, photographs and we are taking all original documents including letters of appointments”, she explained.
According to her, pensioners involved in the exercise were those who retired after June 2007 while those who retired before then, fall under the management of the Contributory Pensions Scheme.
“PTAD had in its pay roll, pensioners it was not sure of their existence. We had in our pay roll pensioners we were paying but not sure of whom we were paying. In December 2015, we had 15,600 pensioners’ accounts dropped because they had no BVN but they were receiving pension without BVN.
She said after the verification exercise done in different parts of the country, especially in South south and North east, the Directorate reinstated 18,000 pensioners to payroll, assuring that after the Lagos exercise, in less than six months, the Directorate would reinstate genuine pensioners whose names were dropped.
“With all the documents available, we will do quality assurance, we will sit down, compute every pensioner’s benefit and effect payment”.
On the 23 percent outstanding increase to pensioners promised by government since 2010, Ikeazor, said the Minister Of Finance, who is the supervising minister for pension matters has presented the pension liability to the Federal Executive Council and has got the approval to raise bond and promissory note to be able to clear the 23per cent increase arrears.
She added that the president, has set up inter ministerial committee on pension liabilities and explained that with the constraints in the economy, government is looking at ways of clearing the arrears.