Angry Military pensioners in Abuja, on Wednesday, shut down the Ministry of Finance headquarters in a protest over reduction and non-payment of their pension arrears.
The protesters, who barricaded the gate to the ministry, hence stopping all movements in and out of the premises, carried placards with inscriptions “Pay us our balance of 20per cent and 53 per cent pension arrears” amongst others.
While addressing the over 300 protesters, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, promised to intervene in the lingering crisis involving the delay in the payment of the over four years pension arrears of the military retirees.
The minister to this effect inaugurated a working group comprising some members from the pensioners, which will be headed by the Director- General of Budget Office, Mr Bright Okogu.
She explained that the group would work to figure out factors that had contributed to the long delay in the payment of the pension arrears.
Okonjo-Iweala, who blamed the long delay on administrative and budget issues, pleaded for understanding on the parts of the pensioners, adding that this would be addressed within the shortest time.
Speaking on the reduction from 53 to 33 per cent, she stated that relevant government agencies had done all the necessary computation and deduction that led to the arrival 33 per cent presently paid.
She further informed the pensioners that at the end of the working committee meeting with some their representatives as well as the Department of Military Pensions next week, the payment of the arrears will commence in installment due to the hugeness of the fund.
“Recall that the increment of pensions to 53 percent was done in 2010 without budgetary provision to back it up, as a result, N1.3 trillion was borrowed for commencement of the payment. After that, no other provision was made to the regard, but the DG budget, Bright Okogu and his team have commenced serious work on that and by the end of the year the payment will commence in batches “ she promised.
Speaking on behalf of the pensioners, Abdulkadir Shinkafi, lamented a high level of disconnect between the pensioners and the relevant government agencies handling their pension matters.
He alleged that other concerned agencies handling their pension had completed their works, with only the Minister of finance deliberately delaying the payment of the pension arrears.
“We have decided to take up our case by ourselves by carrying out this peaceful protest to drive home our demands, because we can’t continue to take excuses and explanations as done in the past four years.
“We have taken our protest to the Presidential Villa, National Assembly, Office of the Head of Service, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and they all claimed to have finished their own part of the job, thus referring us to Ministry of finance. That is why we are here to get the true picture.
“Though the Minister had explained every thing to us on how the deduction was done and also promise to work with the newly inaugurated committee. We are fully convinced and hopeful that the payment will commence soon as she promised. But I promise you that we will be back if otherwise is done” he said.