From Uche Usim, Abuja
Retired civil servants yesterday stormed the Finance Ministry over nonpayment of 15 months gratuity under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
The aggrieved pensioners, numbering about 100, protested on the platform of League of Federal Public Service Contributory Pension Retirees (FPSCPR).
They were armed with placards with various inscriptions, even as they chanted zestful songs of protest. “Ministries of Finance and Budget and National Planning are killing contributory pension scheme”; “Minister of Finance, Minister of National Planning, is it a crime to serve the nation and retire meritoriously?”; “Minister of Finance, stop encouraging corruption. Pay honest retirees their pension”; “Clear the 15 months backlog now”; and “Refusal to pay pensioners is not change”, some of the placards read.
On arrival at the Finance Ministry, stern-looking policemen welcomed them. Receiving the retired civil servants led by their coordinator, Mr. Chike Ogbechie, the officer in charge of the Ministry’s police outpost, Mr. Daniel Abraham, thanked them for their orderly conduct, assuring them that the request to speak with the top officials of the Ministry would be granted.
The Director, Technical Services in the Ministry, Hajiya Larai Shuaibu, arrived the scene shortly after to listen to the protesters.
Briefing the director, who represented the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, the FPSCPR Coordinator, Mr. Chike Ogbechie, said their mission was to see the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, whom the protesters chorused was the problem frustrating the payment of their gratuity.
“The Minister of Finance has no sympathy for elderly senior citizens, while the Minister of Budget and National Planning arbitrarily slashes the budget when it is presented to him by the Pensions Commission (PenCom),” he said.
In a letter by the retirees to the Minister on October 5, 2016, a copy of which was made available to the media, the retirees stated that a budget of N91 billion was submitted to the Ministry of Budget and National Planning in 2016 for their pensions, which they said was slashed to N51 billion, which was grossly inadequate.
The letter revealed that out of the N51 billion, only N18 billion was released by the Ministry of Finance, which barely scratched the surface.
The pensioners demanded that in the monthly release of funds, pension settlement should be made a priority, which means that pensions are to be paid when salaries are being paid.
They also stated that by the end of 2017, government’s liability to this part of pension would be about N200 billion, regretting that only N51 billion again has been presented to the National Assembly for consideration in 2017.
Among the protesters yesterday were four retired directors of various ministries.