IN this conversation with Comrade Irapakob who resides in Jos, Plateau State, on October 19, 2021; the former General Secretary gave insight to the management or mismanagement of NULGE’s pension savings.
National Record (NR): We understand you’ve been working to ensure the payment of your retirement benefits; how far have you gone in trying to process the payment from your union?
Comrade Irapakob: For my own, I wrote to them officially to do it and I have not received any official response from them.
NR: How far have you tried to further push for the payment?
Irapakob: We have been on this almost throughout the leadership of the late Comrade Khaleel. When he was alive, I went to him and said please, call a meeting of retirees of the union; even if you do not have the money, we should meet and discuss when and how the union will pay us.
I told him that the random payment process where the union pays some retired employees a little money this month and some others next month is really unfair, he seemed to agree but didn’t call the meeting until he died.
NR: Are you talking here about the gratuity?
NR: What about the pension deductions?
Irapakob: They were still not remitting the money that time. They were still deducting.
NR: But the pension deductions were not remitted along with the one the union was supposed to pay for employees?
Irapakob: They were not remitted.
NR: Is it only those of you who are retired that are affected by this unremitted pension deductions or the current employees of the union are also included?
Irapakob: Even the current staff, some are still suffering it.
NR: So they are deducting from the salaries of current staff and not remitting to their PFAs?
NR: How far have you gone in pursuing the gratuity not paid and the unremitted pension? I mean, have they remitted to you in full either the gratuity or the pension deductions; what is the status of payment?
Irapakob: They have no refunded in full. It is with them.
NR: So as we speak, you don’t have pension and you don’t have gratuity?
Irapakob: I have little pension; that is the one that I personally remitted to Trustfund Pensions when I was still in service. So they broke it down and they are paying me N29,000 monthly.
NR: You mean you personally paid that to Trustfund or it was remitted from NULGE?
Irapakob: It was NULGE that remitted it; that time I was still in office. That remittance brought quarrel between me and Khaleel; we exchanged words. I said how can you deduct my money and not send it and you will be using it and keeping it; are you going to remit it with interest? That brought quarrel because he said I was challenging him.
NR: But we gathered that they were not remitting the deductions at all, and that the little some employees saved with Trustfund which is the union’s preferred PFA was personally paid by the employees. Were there colleagues you know who are on pension now and getting monthly payments?
Irapakob: There is no one; they didn’t remit; it is a problem now. When I retired, I left N40 million in the pension account. Comrade Ambali [current President of NULGE] is aware of it; N40 million. I don’t know what they have done with the money.
NR: Well, we heard that the union had a pension account, but were you…
Irapakob: […Cuts in] I was the General Secretary then, but they didn’t take my advice. I told them it was not right to deduct pension money and keep it.
NR: But as the then General Secretary, why didn’t you make the remittances? Is it not part of your responsibility to ensure that pension deductions were remitted?
Irapakob: I wrote a cheque and sent, that time Chief Oluyemi Esan was National Treasurer, but Comrade Khaleel refused to sign the cheque; he broke all our briefs, between me and him. You know, there is one thing in union politics, which is very bad politics; the moment you give advice, you are seen to be challenging the authority of the President. Khaleel told me to my face that he is not bound to take my advice.
NR: When were you appointed General Secretary?
NR: And you left when?
Irapakob: I left 2017. It was not that I really retired. I left because they were not taking my advice when they were going wrong. So I said okay, I didn’t want to continue with what was happening. How will you be deducting somebody’s pension money and not remitting it but keeping it in an account where you will be making interest. So I voluntarily retired. If I raised a check, he will refuse to sign it, showing me that he has power over me, that I am just a staff.
NR: So we were not up to retirement age by the time you left?
Irapakob: No, I was not; I still had four years to go; I retired because I discovered that corruption was too much. Somebody will not remit deducted pension money and they will bring their cheque and insist that it must be signed; is that not corruption? I reported the matter to EFCC and EFCC did not do anything about it. I wrote petition that they deducted my money and kept it and asked EFCC to intervene. I also even reported to PenCom; but PenCom also did not do anything.
NR: Have you taken this issue up with the current leadership under Comrade Ambali?
Irapakob: When Ambali came, I went to him and he said he will look into our case. In Nigeria, when leaders say they will look into a case, when you leave, they will forget, perhaps that’s what may have happened in our case.