21st February, 2021
By Bukola Adetoye/Grace Alegba
Concerned PHCN Pensioners (CPP) have appealed to the Federal Government to intervene over shortfalls in payment of pension benefits to its members by the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Ltd./GTE (NELMCO).
The CPP executives, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigerian (NAN), on Sunday in Lagos, alleged that the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (Electricity Sector), colluded with NELMCO to shortchange retirees in payment of pension benefits.
Mr Julius Ayodeji, CPP Secretary, said some of the pension benefits; harmonisation, monetisation and electricity rebates, were trapped in NELMCO.
Ayodeji said NELMCO officially transferred pension payment obligations to Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) in July 2014, however, the budget office remitted arrears to NELMCO instead of PITAD, thereby causing administrative conflicts.
“This is the reason CPP believes that its umbrella body, the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) of the electricity sector has a case to answer,” he said.
The CPP scribe further said the pensioners were yet to receive the 33 per cent arrears of pension increment executed under President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime by PTAD.
He noted that 16,000 retirees spread over all over the country were affected by the shortfall in payment of pension benefits.
“We were prematurely retired in the year 2000, with some of us spending about 15 to 18 years in service,” the CPP secretary lamented.
He explained that before their premature retirement, there was an increment in the worker’s salary by 100 per cent under former President Abdulsalami Abubakar and a further increment of 42 per cent by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“However, when we were prematurely retired in the year 2000, our gratuities were computed only on 100 per cent approved by Abubakar’s regime; we were not paid the 42 per cent increment by Obasanjo,” he said.
Ayodeji said CPP appealed to NELMCO when it realised the pensioners were shortchanged and the organisation agreed to rectify the problem.
“Till this moment, we are yet to be paid the benefits. These benefits consist of harmonisation, monetisation and electricity rebates.
“We were short paid by 42 per cent for 10 years from 2003 to 2014. We made several efforts even protested for this arrears to be paid but to avail.
“PTAD also did not pay the 33 per cent pension increment,” he said.
Ayodeji accused the electricity sector of the NUP, which is supposed to protect the rights of the workers, of conniving with NELMCO to frustrate the struggle due to selfish reasons, causing untold hardship.
“We are using this opportunity to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to direct those holding our pensions to release them to us,” he said.
According to him, some of the retirees that started the struggle have died because there was no money to take care of themselves.
“We worked under hazardous conditions; some pensioners were partially burnt, some paralysed and have several dependents.
“I trained all my children to University level but how many of them are working? I still feed them, if the economy is good, the children should have been the ones taking care of us,” he added.
In his reaction, Mr Samuel Agbogun, NELMCO former Executive Director, confirmed that the retirees were owed the arrears.
Agbogun said: “Truly, the PHCN retirees have genuine allegations, however, the allegations should be referred to PTAD and the electricity sector of NUP.
“The harmonisation, monetisation, rebates among others were carefully calculated and forwarded to PTAD for payment before I left NELMCO.
“NEMCO under my leadership did not embezzle any pensioners’ money.
“Though it was hard for NELMCO to reach some of the retirees for verification due to the area where they were residing.
“However, all necessary information has been transferred to PTAD, so we expect PTAD to continue where we stopped.”
Also, a reliable source in PTAD who spoke to NAN on conditions of anonymity appealed to the retirees to approach PTAD to redress the shortfall in payment of their entitlements.
The source confirmed that the directorate discovered a lot of fraudulent pensioners.
“The directorate has caught two sponsors of fake pensioners already,” the source, a PTAD top management officer alleged.
The source added that the retirees complaining did not show up during the verification conducted by PTAD in 2019 and 2020.