Condemnation have trailed the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate’s (PTAD) mode of verifying sick and bedridden Federal Government pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme.
Experts and pensioners accused the Directorate led by its Executive Secretary, Sharon Ikeazor, of being backward in its verification method, saying the body ought to have moved to the homes of the frail and sick pensioners for the exercise.
They cited the Lagos State government, which has provision for verifying not only the sick pensioners, but also those who are too old to move around in their homes.
Although the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, Delta State Council last week lauded the Directorate for creating a special centre for verifying the sick and special federal pensioners, experts criticised the act, noting that it was cruel to bring the pensioners out and display them as seen in the pictures from the exercise held two weeks ago in the state.
An expert, who spoke with The Nation, described the PTAD’s action as humiliating and dehumanising.
According to him, the pictures of PTAD officials carrying frail-looking pensioners show lack of empathy on by the Directorate in its pursuit to eradicate ghost pensioners from the system.
He advised the Directorate to embrace the technetronic age.
A pensioner at the University of Lagos State, Akoka, Moses Ogunsola, said PTAD’s non-payment of pension and gratuities of many pensioners across the country has brought upon them sicknesses and in some cases deaths.
He said: “The women seen in the pictures would have been able to buy medicine and feed well if PTAD had paid them. But they were left to become sick, brought forward for display and they expect the public to applaud them.
”The recent photograph of PTAD in the front pages of newspapers carrying an obviously sick and fragile pensioner to a pensioners’ verification centre is an arrogant display of callousness on the part of PTAD. What stopped the officials verifying the women seen in the pictures where they were instead of displaying them? It is sheer wickedness.
“If the pensioners had been paid their pension as and when due, they would have fed themselves better and be able to buy medicines than the frail looks, which obviously was due to malnutrition.
“I am a pensioner and I know what I am passing through, having not been paid my gratuity since 2004, when I retired meritoriously from the University of Lagos. Aside from not paying my gratuity, they refused to pay my July 2015 monthly pension and all efforts to make them pay have proved abortive. Many of us have the same problem and when we go to their Lagos branch, they will start asking us to go and bring bank statement of two years, three years and sometimes 10 years. Where do they expect us to get money to print bank statements when, indeed, they ought to have records of payments to every pensioner?
Another pensioner, who gave his name as Mustapha, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue them.
“PTAD has ignored all our petitions and appeals. We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to help us. He should look into our matter and pay pensioners their dues instead PTAD’s shed of crocodile’s tears.
“My colleagues and I are suffering. We can barely feed ourselves, despite serving the country with our strength. PTAD should do the right thing instead of playing to the gallery around the country.
Mrs Kuti Olayinka, a pensioner of the federal Civil Service, lamented that despite the verification, PTAD had not paid her six years’pension after stopping it in August 2010.
“I was disengaged from the service in July 2006 on a wrong level 07, instead of Gl 08, and I was paid my pension in 2009, which was stopped in August 2010 till. I have not been paid for six years, despite going through all verifications.
“I wrote several complaints after submitting all the required document at the Lagos office in May 2016, yet I did not receive any response from them,” she added.
A Radio Nigeria retiree, Emmanuel Omolah, in his letter to The Nation entitled, “Cry for help”, said PTAD’s non-payment of his pension arrears had caused him agony, such that he visited the hospital regularly for treatment, though he was not getting the medication due to lack of funds.
“I thank the newspaper most sincerely for the efforts to ensure that PTAD pays my pension arrears and put me on monthly pay-roll. So far, PTAD has not done anything. In November, last year, they requested for the original of my file from my former employers Radio Nigeria, Lagos and it was immediately forwarded to them in Abuja.
“Painfully, up till now, PTAD has refused to pay my pension arrears and has not placed me on monthly pay roll. The arrears was due for payment in April 2016 while the monthly pension has been accumulating since then. I don’t know what else to do for PTAD to answer me. The matter has caused me so much depression, such that I now visit the hospital regularly for treatment which I am not getting due to lack of funds.
“Severe family commitments have also compounded my situation. I am on the brink of being evicted by my landlord because of accumulated rents and my children have been sent back home from school due my inability to pay their school fees. Please, tell PTAD that I am begging them to consider my plight and attend to me,” he said.
PTAD’s spokesperson, Mrs. Theodora Amaechi, said confirmed that officials of the Directorate went to the homes of sick pensioners to verify them.
She explained that the verification centre was only for people who could come out of their homes.
She, however, noted that the Directorate officials could not go to the homes of all the sick pensioners, adding that it only went to those who could still manage to come out.