Uche Usim, Abuja
A mild drama played out Tuesday evening as angry pensioners of defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) stormed the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance in Abuja, barricaded the main entrance gate and prevented the Minister, Mrs Zainab Ahmed from leaving the premises.
The minister was racing home to break her fast at about 6:30pm after meeting with heads of agencies under her ministry, only to meet the gate shut with the ex-NAL workers replacing the security personnel hitherto manning the entrance.
The visibly peeved retirees, numbering less than 30, said their action was inevitable because the government has refused to settle their entitlements.
In unison, they claimed they traveled to Abuja from various parts of the country on the invitation of the Ministry for data capturing, only to be left frustrated without achieving their aim.
Some of them who spoke to Daily Sun insisted their arrived Abuja on Sunday for the data capturing exercise only to be abandoned to sleep in open space within and around the Ministry premises; where they were exposed to the elements.
Speaking on behalf of his ex-employees of defunct Nigeria Airways, Comrade Sam Nzene, the Chairman NAL pensioners explained that some of his colleagues were left out in the first tranche of 50 percent paid late year due to non-capturing of their data.
He conceded it was not totally government’s fault having sent out sufficient notices to those that missed out on the capturing to come for same on Monday 27th May 2019.
“But to my surprise, my people have been here in the last three days sleeping outside and nobody is talking to them.
“No arrangement so ever on the ground for data capturing. The Consultant in charge of verification, simply identified as Jibril said he had not been paid. In fact, he said he needs logistics, and papers to work which we agreed to pay some money but he left and didn’t come back “, he lamented.
All entreaties and persuasion from the Executive Secretary, Pension Transitional Directorate, PTAD, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor who was at the scene at the time were rebuffed by the frustrated retirees, who vowed not to shift grounds until they extracted convincing promises from the trapped Minister.
Conceding, the minister urged them to go to the hall for capturing at about 6.44 pm.
Recall that the federal government in October 2018, commenced the payment of 50 per cent entitlements of ex-workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways who have successfully completed the verification exercise.
N22.6 billion was approved as 50 percent with a promise to liquidate the balance in 2019.
The capturing exercise was conducted by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) in Lagos, Kano, and Enugu ahead of the disbursement of the N22.6 billion approved as part payment of their entitlements.
Among government officials that came to see Hajiya Zainab Ahmed at the time protesters sealed ministry’s entrance include, Director- General of Debt Management Office,, DMO, Ms. Patience Oniha, Commissioner of insurance/ CEO of National Insurance Commission, Alhaji Mohammed Kari and Senior Special Assistant to the president on National Assembly ( Senate) Ita Enang.
Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanye has commended PTAD Executive Secretary, Sharon Ikeazor led Senior Management staff of the Directorate to the Commission for fighting pension scammers, fraudsters.
He stated this during a courtesy visit to the new Chairman and Board members to seek for their collaboration on the fight against pension fraudsters.
PTAD Executive Secretary used the meeting to update the Chairman on the activities of the Directorate and achievements recorded under her leadership. She said the Directorate has concluded verifications for three (3) main operational Departments (Police Pension Department, Custom, Immigration, Prisons Pension Department and Civil Service Pension Department) under the watch of ICPC officials and that the last Department (Parastatal Pension Department) which comprises of over 270 defunct Treasury Funded Agencies will be conducted in April 2019.
She also used the visit to solicit for enhanced collaboration with the Commission, which would facilitate the apprehension and prosecution of the unscrupulous pension phone scammers, whose antics were becoming savvy.