FG, police trade blame as 4,000 ex-policemen lament unpaid pension
NEWS DIGEST–No less than 4,000 retired policemen have yet to receive their pensions since 2017 when they left the Force after 35 years of serving the nation.
Many of them who spoke to Sunday PUNCH lamented their situation, which they described as horrible as the police and the Federal Government continued to trade blame over the matter.
Some of the retirees, whose pensions are being managed by the Police Pension Fund Administrator and regulated by the National Pension Commission, told Sunday PUNCH on Friday, that they were not given their gratuity, despite undertaking several data capture.
By law, the Nigeria Police Force Pensions Limited is supposed to pay a retiree monthly or quarterly income for life after retirement, which is guaranteed for a period of 10 years.
A senior National Pension Commission official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Friday, blamed the Nigeria Police Force Pensions Limited, for the delay, stating that the firm was not proactive in addressing the complaints of the retirees. He stated that the regulatory agency had upbraided several pension funds administrators over their poor work ethics and attitude to pensioners.
But the Force Pensions Officer, DCP Ibrahim Tafa, said the Federal Government was to blame for the delays in the pension payment, which he said was not peculiar to the police. He stressed that other federal workers were also affected.
He said, “You know the police are not responsible for paying them (retirees). The contributory pension scheme is very clear. The Pension Reform Act made them to have their pension fund administrators and the delay is because of the non-release of their full rights by the Federal Government.
“I’m sure all of them have been captured by the National Pension Commission. It has to be budgeted for and it takes almost a year and before they pass the budget into law, it takes time.
So, the Federal Government is releasing it gradually in arrears. We have arrears of over one year now; the last payment was around August, 2018.
“So, all those that have retired within this year have not received their money (pension). November and December retirees have not received their full rights. So, there are processes, but all of them would be paid if they have been captured by the PENCOM. The administrators have all their data and immediately Federal Government releases money, they would be paid. The delays affected all Federal Government workers, not only the police.”
He added, “Like those who are to retire in 2020, PENCOM has verified and enrolled them. Now, they would compute their money and send it to the Ministry of Finance and it would be budgeted for payment. This is the challenge we are facing because of the delays in the payment of our full rights.”
The Force spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, also absolved the police of blame, noting that the pension payment often suffered delays due to technical issues or counterpart contributions by the FG.
He stated, “Each person’s case might differ. Some may have to do with lack of documentation, or because some things in their documentation were queried. Some might be delayed because the federal government had not paid their counterpart contribution and this is the commonest problem.
He advised the complainants to report to the pensions desk at their command and escalate the matter to their PFAs.
Police officers lament life of penury
Retired police officers who spoke to PUNCH correspondent complained that they had been going through very hard times following the failure of the NPF pensions to pay them since 2017.
For instance, a retired Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ezekiel Olusina, said he had not received any money since he retired in 2017, 18 months ago. He added that many other police officers who retired alongside him were also not paid.
Olusina, who is suffering from a heart ailment, stated that he had done several biometric capturing as directed by the police pension, adding that he was subsequently informed that the arrangement of his name was responsible for the delay.
He said, “We have done data capturing many times, but last week they said the name did not correspond. I am Ezekiel Olusina Joseph; they said I am Joseph Ezekiel Olusina and that it was the reason for the delay.
“I went to the National Identity Management Commission and they asked me to swear an affidavit. I paid into Remita and they did the biometric capturing to rearrange my name. Up till now, I have not seen anything.”
The retired DSP also said the NPF Pensions informed him that his PIN was no longer valid, despite giving him a certificate confirming that the PIN was valid.
He stated, “I was also told that the old PFA PIN was no longer valid. I was with First Guarantee Pension Limited before I joined the police pensions in 2016 and the police pensions received our accrued rights from First Guarantee last year.
“They gave me a certificate and boldly written on the certificate was the former PIN we were using and which they confirmed as the PIN we would continue to use.
“After my retirement, I wanted to access my account; I gave the police pensions the same PIN which was used to access my account. It wasn’t only me, but all of us, but I was surprised to hear that the PIN was no longer valid. If the PIN was not valid, how did they use it to access our accounts?”
Also, a retired Deputy Commissioner of Police, Johnson Chukwuma (not real name), dismissed claims by the police that the Federal Government had yet to pay its own contributions about 18 months after. He said he confirmed that it had been done.
He added, “The Federal Government has paid their contribution, it is the police that are withholding our pensions. Three colleagues and I were at PENCOM last week and they told us that the problem was from police pensions. The whole delay came from the police.
“I have health challenge and as I’m taking to you, I have no drugs. I’m only depending on pain reliever. I believe they might have diverted my pension. If not, why are they delaying it?”
Another pensioner, who simply identified himself as Kenneth, retired Assistant Superintendent of Police, said he left the service in March 2018 and that that he had yet to get the N2.6m gratuity he was entitled to, despite undergoing data capturing three times.
He accused the police pensions of conniving with the government to delay the payment, adding that a senior PENCOM official in Lagos informed him that over 4,000 police pensioners had not been paid.
Kenneth stated that he was reluctant to enrol with the police pensions on account of his dreadful experience in the Force, noting that his estacode for going on foreign assignments and promotion benefits were not paid.
He insisted that his former PFA, Pensions Alliance, had paid his accrued rights to the police, and wondered why the police authorities refused to release the money.
The retired ASP stated, “The police PFA informed me on August 15, 2019, that they would pay me within 42 days. After I waited and didn’t get any bank alert, I went to meet them and they said there was a directive from PENCOM that we had to do data recapturing again; something I did in 2018.
“I went to police pensions and spoke with the most senior official at their Ikeja office. The man said they were having problems with PENCOM. I decided to visit PENCOM office and a senior official told me it was a minor issue.
“The official called them in Abuja and they told him that I was not the only one affected. They said about 4,000 policemen who initially were not enrolled on police pensions have not been paid.
“They also said our PIN was supposed to be re-assigned by our former PFA to the police PFA. Now, they said the man in charge of the matter was out of the country and would be back on Monday. The official who gave me this information took pity on me and gave me N1,000. That is the situation I have found myself.
“The man said 4,000 former policemen were in the same category with me, going through this terrible experience. The question is, why are these people treating us this way after serving this nation for 35 years? Many police officers are dying after retirement.”
Another policeman who also retired in 2017 lamented that he had been at the mercy of his family members to pay his children’s school fees because his gratuity and over 18 months arrears had not been paid.
He said, “The rule in the force forbids an officer from running a private business, so my colleagues and me relied on our salary throughout our years in service. But now that we are retired, what do we do?”
Meanwhile, in the 2020 budget estimate submitted to the National Assembly by the President, the breakdown under the police formations and commands showed that police budgeted N22,068,621,226 for contributory pension (employer’s contribution).
The Head, Corporation Communications, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, Mr Olugbenga Ajayi, however, said any issue of non-payment of pensions to ex-police officers was not a general problem.
For those complaining of non-payment, he said, “We asked them to bring their documents because some of them are not qualified. If there is any issue, they should come to our office and we will look into it.
“If the person has done verification but lacking documents, we need to know what the issue is.”