Pensioners in the South-West region of Nigeria, on Friday, protested the non-payment of their gratuity shortfall by the Federal Government.
The pensioners, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Contributory Pension Scheme Sector (NUPCPS), Southwest zone, alleged that top officials of the National Pension Commission were holding on to their allowances.
The pensioners consist workers from the University College Hospital Ibadan; University Teaching hospital, Ife; Ilorin Teaching hospital; Federal Medical Centres, Ogun and Lagos; NIPOST among others.
With placards in their hands, the senior citizens demanded that their entitlements be paid without further delay.
They lamented that the money they were contributing at the time of their retirement was not paid to them, saying members of the association are in dire need of the money.
Speaking during the protest, the Chairman of NUPCPS in Oyo State, Joseph Olugbemiga, cried out that their “members have not been fairly treated, having contributed to national development while in service.”
Olugbemiga stated that the union had written to the Federal Government through the Ministry of Finance, adding that the matter had been taken to court.
He further alleged that one Ibrahim Bakare connived with others to siphon the contributory money of the pensioners after the money had been deposited in the designated account.
Olugbemiga said, “What we are contesting for is, we are applying for our short payment of shortfall. When they were calculating our money, they used grade level. When we were retiring and they were calculating our money by Pencom, they used the salary grade level of every parastatals.
“Then, we applied and they computed it. Then, they applied from the federal government and it was paid.
“Then, Alhaji Ibrahim Bakare and his cohort took the money from the treasury and put it in a private account, generating interest of almost N200 million every year.
“Then we demanded for our money, before they were telling us the matter was in court. The matter is not in court.
“Thereafter, Damisah is the key officer that is holding the money in his account. They have been keeping the money all along and taking interest.
“This is our argument: IPPIS is owing us money. When our people are retiring, the money that was in the IPPIS was not calculated with their pension money; and we have been parading the office of the Accountant General for the past two years, the money is still there. They have generated the money out of all our members. What is delaying it?
“We have some local issues like that of Damisah, the chairman for Ife. We asked him to surrender all the documents of the association, but he failed to do that. He was taken to the police station but the police were unable to arrest him. We have taken him to the Ooni of Ife palace.
“If we arrest Damisah today, they know that the secret of this money, he and Alhaji Bakare, they colluded. Do we have a government who cannot control those people that are serving?
“All letters we have been writing to the minister of finance, there was no reply.
“We have suffered for this government and those people that are clamouring to leave Pencom, why are they clamouring? Why did they remove the police and Army? Is it because the condition of service there is not palatable?
“Instead of giving us 80 per cent of our last pay, they are giving us 20 per cent. For what? Is it in the constitution?
“We asked them to make a provision for our checkup bills, but they refused. And Pencom is taking one per cent of our money as administrative charges.
“These people had served for 35 years and you are saying they are not entitled to gratuity. We have not been paid our gratuity. The condition by which we were employed is still there,” Olugbemiga stated.
In his reaction, Ibrahim Bakare of Salary and Wages Commission, Abuja, faulted the pensioners’ claims.
Bakare denied fixing the pensioners’ funds in an account.
He said “It is not possible for the Federal Government to pay money into somebody’s account without due process. If you go through what they are saying very well, we are all pensioners; and as a pensioner, they will pay you your money. If they have any other money to pay you, they will.
“They (the pensioners) are not entitled to it. They have complained to Pencom, saying they are not entitled to a shortfall.”