From Uche Usim, Abuja
Scores of pensioners of NICON Insurance, Nigeria Re-Insurance Corporation, Nigerian Defence Academy (civilians) and New Nigerian Newspapers were in jubilant mood yesterday as the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) began verification exercise for them as a prelude to paying them their entitlements.
The package for NICON Insurance and Nigeria Re-Insurance retirees is coming 13 years after the establishments were privatised.
The verification exercises were held in Abuja, Kaduna and Lagos states simultaneously on Monday. The Executive Secretary of PTAD, Sharon Ikeazor, who declared the exercise open on Monday at the PTAD headquarters in Abuja, said it would last for six days.
As early as 8.30 am, anxious pensioners thronged the Maitama Headquarters of PTAD for the exercise which involves data capturing and verification of documents.
Some of the pensioners told Daily Sun that it was the first time retirees were having it very smooth, adding that the procedure was completely different from what obtained in the past where pensioners were treated with scorn and disdain.
Mr Awa Nmaju, a former staff of NICON Insurance and Chairman, Pensioners Pressure Group, said they have not received pension in the last twelve years.
“Our pension has not been paid in the last 12 years and we have been struggling to see that we get paid. Eventually PTAD has done a great job arranging this verification exercise for us.
A journey that started in 2005 till now. It’s not a small journey but we are relieved as soon as our case was transferred to PTAD, a lot of attention has been given to it especially with the coming on board of the new Executive Secretary of PTAD Sharon Ikeazor, she has done a great job for us.”
Continuing, he said , “I am very much excited. In fact my happiest day was on the 3rd of March when I was told that the minister has approved for us to be pensionable.”
The pensioner recalled that when the federal government privatized his former corporation and were paid off, he has been finding it difficult to survive; lamenting that what they were paid was not commiserate with the years they put in service. However, he said, “Since we have been put under pension, we will start receiving monthly stipend though it may not be as we expected it. Although they will pay us arrears.”
Another pensioner, Mr Michael Olasoni Rees, said: “For the first time , retirees are having it very smoothly and you know the procedure is completely different from that of the past where pensioners are treated with disdain; people fallen down, because of lack of seating arrangement but as you can see, how things are going on very smoothly here.
“We give kudos to PTAD. The old days where retirees are treated as if they are not human beings look as if it’s past, now you can see how people are going in a good procedure. When we came in they welcomed us very well and told us that there will be snacks after the verification exercise, that has never happened in the history of retirees in this country.
“ My expectation is that, if you have been captured and verified as retiree , you should enjoy pension. They should speed up the process of pension payment so as to reduce the pressure and the anguish pensioners are going through because honestly life has not been easy with most us” .
On what the Federal Government should do to lessen the burden of pensioners in the country, he said, “what PTAD is doing now is part of it. As I said earlier, you can know the rigors when they said they want to verify pensioners they go through hell but now it is a different ballgame. Look at the way they are doing things orderly, look at the way they are attending to pensioners like human beings. Before, pensioners are treated almost like less than an animal, but now they are making things orderly and that is the beauty of it and at least we are getting this treatment but we want the payment to follow almost immediately.”