The Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has assured government retirees that their money was safely kept in the Central Bank of Nigeria coffers under the Treasury Single Account policy.
The Executive Secretary of PTAD, Dr. Chioma N. Ejikeme gave the assurance in Abuja on Monday at the maitama verification centre for pensioners, even as she allayed the fears of the anxious retirees who claimed to have learnt that government was planning to borrow their pension funds for other ventures.
She said: “Before now, government money was kept in commercial banks like Union, UBA etc which you could access.
“Now, such money is in CBN vault under the TSA arrangement. We use a code to access each of you and ensure CBN credits you. We don’t physically see your money but electronically. No one has access to your money. Disabuse your mind from that rumour”, she said.
According to Ejikeme, the Directorate has since secured federal government’s approval to pay the outstanding 24 months of the 33% pension arrears, assuring them that the money will hit their accounts once there was cash backing.
She explained: “We’ve the approval to pay the 33% arrears. Once we have cash backing, we would pay. We pray it happens soon, even before the end of the year.
“For this administration, pensioners and their next of kin are a priority.
We have been paying the next of kin of verified pensioners and we will continue to pay.
“We want to ensure all eligible pensioners are captured and paid their pension regularly as and when due. That is what this verification exercise is for.
“Mr President is a pensioner, so is Minister of Finance that releases the money and myself. We feel what you feel. These ex-workers spent their active years serving Nigeria. We can’t abandon them at old age. The government cares. “However, resources of government has been dwindling. We have to ensure this verification exercise is thoroughly carried out. You’ll all be on our database. We need to know the true number of pensioners. There will be continuous verification at our offices nationwide because it’s an ongoing process. It’ll help us address issues of underpayment, overpayment, ghost pensioners logjam etc”.
On pensioners benefiting from the new minimum wage, Ejikeme said:
“It’s a given. Salaries and wages Commission will get back to us to let us know what percentage is accruable to pensioners. We’ve made provision for it in 2020 budget. You’ll get it”.
On health insurance for pensioners, the PTAD boss said plans were afoot to launch a comprehensive health insurance scheme for them.
She added that the process will be underway once the database of PTAD was cleaned up.
“Let’s first remove ghost pensioners and then the next thing is working on further welfare for pensioners. As a medical doctor myself, I appreciate the need for that.
“Once you age, there is degeneration of the body and your pocket gets thinner and you can no longer spend as much as you spent when younger were younger and working.
“So, that is why we are taking the welfare of pensioners very seriously. We will work closely with the unions on this”, she stated.
Commenting on the process, Daniel Eromosele, a pensioner described it as appreciable, even as he called on the government to ensure that retirees got all their entitlements as and when due.