From Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration had on May 29, 2000, granted amnesty to members of the Nigeria Police Force who took sides with the defunct Republic of Biafra during the 30-month civil war and were subsequently dismissed after the war.
Part of the terms of the amnesty commuted their dismissal to retirement, thus, they were now entitled to full pension and gratuity having been deemed to have served for 35 years.
Some commendable successes had been recorded in the payment of the benefits. However, these war veterans have continued to cry out over exclusion of some of their dead members, stringent conditions and unacceptable terms upon which the payment were based.
The Pension Transition Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) recently met with them under the Association of Retired War Affected Police Officers (ARWAPO), with a view to finding lasting solutions to difficulties experienced in the payment of their benefits.
At the interactive session hosted in Enugu by the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Dr Chioma Ejikeme on March 4, their leader; Chief Matthew Udeh narrated some of their plights: “If we had had this kind of devotion from previous Police Pension Departmental heads, we would have been able to resolve most of these things. For instance, most of the documents we have been asked to produce today, we have produced repeatedly before. But patiently we are going through it and we will get through it.
“That is one part, for them to handle the case of someone who was paid, who remembers what he was paid, who didn’t retain his voucher or cheque or who didn’t open an account with it but he knows the amount. How do we resolve that? Shall we refuse to place him or pension because he has lost his papers? What shall happen to him? That is a food for thought for us today.
“We have had the case where some next of kin have been paid in 2015 or 2007 and are therefore not entitled to be paid again. And we said no, that is not right before the 2015 or the 2007 computation was based on the 1970 police scale of salary. Our submission is that it should be recomputed with the 2000 scale of salary and the difference paid to him. We have such two queries in the ongoing exercise of what we are dealing with them. We have made such remarks in the documents we have forwarded.”
He also raised concerns over the interpretation given to the amnesty programme which excluded the next of kin of war veterans who had died before the amnesty from receiving their entitlements. He was of the opinion that since the government in its wisdom deemed all the pardoned police officers to have served for 35 years; they should also deem all of those who died before the amnesty to have died in the year 2000.
“Then, the case of interpretation of payment of gratuities or pension of officers who died before the amnesty was granted. The present policy of PTAD is that their next of kin don’t qualify because the people died before the amnesty was granted.
“Our case is that this amnesty that was granted covers everybody who was dismissed in the year 1970. And the choice of the date 2000 was made convenient for government because if you say it is 1970, it will be difficult to calculate. It will be so much money and that is why government said let it take effect from this date.
“And we are saying that these next of kin should not lose the benefit of their people just because they died before 2000.”