FORMER General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress and retired Associate Professor of Economics, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, has cried out over the inexplicable stoppage of his pension benefits by the federal government since 2020.
Dr Ozo-Eson, who is the immediate past General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said his monthly pension was suddenly stopped in September 2020 and every effort he had made since then for the payment to be restored was futile.
In a press statement, Dr Ozo-Eson narrated his agonising experience in the hands of officials of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), a federal government agency set up to address the numerous complaints from pensioner under the old Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS).
Dr Ozo-Eson who retired from the services of NLC in 2019, said PTAD’s maltreatment of pensioners is capable of rushing them to their early. “Withholding the monthly pension of retirees for months and now, even years, is capable of rushing them to untimely death, particularly since some of them depend exclusively on such payments for their daily up-keep and purchase of medications which sustain them,” Ozo-Eson said.
He called on the federal government to probe PTAD to unravel those benefiting from from the backlog of withheld funds. “In any case, given the sad history of the abuse and looting of pension funds in Nigeria, one must wonder who is benefiting from the backlog of withheld funds. A timely searchlight needs to be beamed on the Directorate before the situation gets out of hand,” he said.
The statement, entitled, “PTAD’s Cynical Plans to Rush Retirees to Their Untimely Graves,” reads:
“I am a retiree, who draws monthly pension under the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). I voluntarily retired from the services of the University of Jos on May 3rd, 2001 at the rank of an Associate Professor. After the due process of documentation, I was placed on the monthly pension payroll.
“Years later, on invitation, I went to Jos physically for a verification exercise. I continued to receive the monthly pension until September, 2020 when it suddenly stopped. I received no communication regarding the stoppage.
“After several e-mails and failed calls to PTAD, which were not answered, I eventually found my way to the Directorate’s head office in Abuja in June, 2022. I was made to go through a process of documentation and data capture, which consumed two full days. Thereafter, I was issued a Pensioner’s Verification Acknowledgement Form dated June 23rd 2022. I was assured that I would be restored to the payroll and that the backlog of unpaid allowances would be paid.
“In July, when I received no payments, I went to the Headquarters’ office to raise hell, but I was calmed down by the civility and respectfulness of the lady staff who attended to me. She pleaded that I should exercise more patience as her enquiries confirmed that my payments would be restored in August. I impressed on her that these payments determined whether some retirees lived or died! She assured me that my payment would be restored in August.
“On the 7th of September, I returned to PTAD’s head office since I still had not received any payment. I raised hell, but another lady, a Director, intervened and pleaded with me to exercise further patience. She assured me that she was going to follow up on the matter and asked me to come back a week from then to get a feedback. When I came back on the 14th of September, she made some phone calls and then confirmed to me that my payment would be restored in October. She assured me that she would follow up and ensure that there was no failure.
“When October came and passed and I still had not received any payment, I wrote formally to the Directorate on the 9th of November. As of this moment, I have not received any response to my letter and I still have received no payment.
“Withholding the monthly pension of retirees for months and now, even years, is capable of rushing them to untimely death, particularly since some of them depend exclusively on such payments for their daily up-keep and purchase of medications which sustain them.
“In any case, given the sad history of the abuse and looting of pension funds in Nigeria, one must wonder who is benefiting from the backlog of withheld funds. A timely searchlight needs to be beamed on the Directorate before the situation gets out of hand.
“I have decided to issue this Press Statement, on the basis of my personal experience, because I am convinced that my situation is not unique to me. I am convinced that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of retirees going through similar unsavory treatment by PTAD. While I am taking personal steps to seek redress, I am convinced that ss a public institution, PTAD needs to be held accountable.
“I wish to, therefore, through the Press, call on all relevant agencies of government with oversight and supervisory responsibilities over PTAD, including the relevant Committees of the National Assembly, to intervene and ensure that the Directorate is alive to its responsibilities and is operating above board.”
PTAD’s statutory role
PTAD is empowered by Section 30, subsection (2a) of the Amended Pension Reform Act, 2004 to take over the management of three of the offices that administered the old pension scheme to address the numerous pensioners’ complaints that bother on issues such as non-payment of monthly pension, short payment of pension and gratuity, removal of name on pension payment voucher, non-payment of harmonised pension arrears, irregular payment of federal pensions and non-receipt of pension after retirement, among other issues.