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As PTAD changes narratives towards pensioners’ story in Nigeria

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In this article Business Editor, ONU OKORIE writes that appointment of
the Executive Secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement
Directorate PTAD Sharom Ikpeazu has brought change of narratives in
the verification exercise and payments to pensioners

The dream of civil servants all over the world is to end career on a
voluntary retirement after completing the required years of service
and be able to enjoy pensions without hassles.

However, despite nursing that hope, many of them have ended up in
regret after many years of endless wait to be captured among
Pensioners. In Nigeria, it is not news that many of such senior
citizens have died while waiting in vain for their pensions.

While the unfortunate incident may not be a deliberate plan of
government, most of the time those charged with management of the
agencies responsible for payment of pensions can be blamed for the
flaws inherent in the pension system.

However, the coming of the current Executive Secretary of Pension
Transitional Arrangement Directorate PTAD Sharom Ikpeazu has brought
change of narratives in the verification exercise and payments.

Barr, Ikeazor who was appointed as the Executive Secretary of the
Directorate by Buhari on the 26th of September 2016, has identified
areas in need of critical changes in PTAD and took appropriate
measures which have changed the negative story of pension
administration under Defined Benefit Scheme to a positive one today.

She introduced efficient payment platform, painstaking I.T driven
verifications with empathy and anti-corruption crusade with the
inauguration of Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit ACTU. She works
in collaboration with ICPC, EFCC and Nigeria Police to stamp out
corruption in the system. The hope of pensioners under the Defined
Benefit Scheme has been restored by her.

Since she assumed duties, prompt payment of many pensioners under PTAD
has become a normal thing as she introduced innovations in the
verification exercise.

One of such innovations is taking verifications to zonal and state
offices at state capitals to reduce hazardous travel to Federal
Capital for verifications by the senior citizens.

Some of the states that have been covered include Ondo, Osun and Ekiti
states etc. The verification exercise which started on Monday
February 4th and ended on Wednesday February 13th in Jimeta – Yola,
Adamawa State, saw a total of 1,290 Ex-workers and 331 NoKs turnout
for the 9-day exercise.

According to the Executive Secretary, Sharon Ikeazor, the verification
is for the payment of the balance of the one-off terminal benefits
paid to them by the BPE in 2002 at the time of privatization.

Ex-workers in the diaspora who did not take part in the exercise have
been assured that they can be verified at PTAD HQ, Abuja or PTAD North
East Regional office in Yola, Adamawa State.

Also the verification of SSCL brings the total number of
defunct/privatised agencies verified by PTAD to eight including Delta
Steel Company DSC, NITEL/Mtel, NICON Insurance Plc, New Nigeria
Newspapers and Nigeria Reinsurance.

It would be recalled that in the past many of the senior citizens have
perished in road accident while travelling to long distance to be
captured in verification.

Another commendable attitudes change introduced by Ikpeazu to assist
the old men and women coming for verification include, providing
comfortable seats and food for them that none of the senior citizens
had any reason to complain while they wait for their turn during the
exercise.

Lastly, medical attention was made available for the verification
process. Some of the senior citizens that have handicap were provided
with wheel chairs. No doubt the pensioners affirmed that they have
never had it so good.

According to the Executive Secretary, “we ensured that the pensioners
are not stressed up whenever they are invited for verification. Not
only that, the issue of delay on delivery both in carrying out the
verification and payment for those their verification went through
have become a thing of the past.”

Speaking during the PTAD North Central stakeholder forum recently in
Abuja, the PTAD boss said, “We have brought our services closer to our
Pensioners in the North East with an additional state office in
Damaturu.”

“Another office in Yola was also commissioned in February 2019. We are
also upgrading the services of some of our state offices like Lagos to
Regional Offices Status, to enable them offer the same quality of
services available in the Head Office, including carrying out
biometric verification.”

“Incidents of pension fraud are on the decline as we continue to
create awareness and partner with the ICPC and the EFCC to arrest and
prosecute fraudsters.”

One of the pensioners’ who simply gave her name as Mrs Owolabi in Osun
State after completing her verifications said that the innovations are
akin to what obtains in advanced countries. She advised the Executive
Secretary to keep it up because she would be the better for it in the
future.

Former Deputy Governor of Osun state Otunba Grace Titilayo Tomori was
among pensioners verified at the Unilag center. The verification of
Parastatals pensioners continued from Saturday May 4th at the
following venues: POWA Multipurpose Hall, GRA Ikeja; 3 Bees Event
Centre, 463 Ikorodu Road, Ketu; Multipurpose Hall UNILAG, Akoka.
It is expected that the first phase of the verification will end on
Thursday May 9th while the second phase begins in the South-South Zone
from Monday May 20th – Saturday June 1st, 2019.

Senator Ali Ndume Chairman of the Committee on Establishment & Public
Service recently commended the Barr Ikeazor and PTAD staff for the job
well done in the co-ordinated and comprehensive verification of
pensioners.

The story of innovative verifications exercise is the same in all the
centers both in states and Abuja. For instance, the PTAD verification
centres near Trinity Church Maitama and Gwaripa center has been
applauded by many senior citizens.

In a statement recently Mrs Ikpeazu disclosed that in fulfillment of
President Buhari’s promise to clear outstanding arrears for pensioners
under the Defined Benefit Scheme, the PTAD has paid the sum of N370,
960 million to 13,754 pensioners of Nigeria Railway Corporation NRC.

The payment was the final installment of the 30 months arrears of the
33 percent pension increment that was confirmed by the management of
NRC.

Ikeazor stated that PTAD inherited outstanding 33 per cent pension
increment liabilities from various agencies at the time of its
takeover of payment of Parastatals pension in 2015 and 30 months
arrears of 33 per cent as at June 2015.

However, between 2016 and 2018, 24 months arrears were paid to the
pensioners of the Corporation leaving an outstanding balance of six
months as at December 2018.

She assured other agencies that all arrears will be paid after the
completion of Parastatals Pension Department PaPD verification
exercise later in the year.

Also the Directorate has approved the immediate payment of the sum of
N2.608 billion to Civil Service pensioners.

She explained that the payment is the final tranche being made to
Civil Service pensioners on the six months arrears of 33 per cent
pension increment and is in fulfillment of President Muhammadu
Buhari’s led administration’s commitment to pensioners’ welfare.

It is also noteworthy that the Directorate has now cleared the backlog
of the 33 percent pension arrears of three main Departments of Civil
Service Pension Department, Police Pension Department and Customs,
Immigration and Prisons Pension Department.

PTAD has also revealed that it has commenced a pensioner satisfaction
survey towards improving on its service delivery to pensioners.
The phone-call based survey aims to gauge the pulse of the pensioners,
measure their satisfaction with PTAD services and provide the
necessary feedback towards improving on our service commitment to
pensioners.

The survey started from March 2019 to May 2019 between the hours of
9am to 4pm. Pensioners were encouraged to be factual in their response
to the calling agents who will identify themselves by name.

The innovations at the Directorate have not gone unnoticed as
Executive Secretary has been commended on her determination to win the
fight against pension scammers and fraudster through creation of
Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit ACTU in the Directorate with
vigorous media campaigns against fraudsters’ activities and staff
training on early detection of fraudsters and scammers in the system.

The Executive Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices Commission ICPC
Professor Bolaji Owasanoye gave the commendation when PTAD Executive
Secretary led Senior Management staff of the Directorate to the
Commission on courtesy visit to the new Chairman and Board members to
seek for their collaboration on the fight against pension fraudsters.

She also used the visit to solicit for enhanced collaboration with the
Commission, which would facilitate the apprehension and prosecution of
the unscrupulous pension phone scammers, whose antics were becoming
savvy.

Also, Barr Ikeazor has won this year Africa Pension Personality of the
year, CEO Leadership Category , Gold Awards among other institutions
nominated for the award which include: The Government Pensions
Administration Agency GPAA of South Africa, Metropolitan Pensions
Trust Ghana Limited of Ghana and Axis Pension Group also of Ghana.

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