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Finance ministry keeps mum over dead soldiers’ benefits

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Hon. Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed. PHOTO: TWITTER/FINMINNIGERIA


•Retired Officers Want EFCC To Investigate Military Pension

A deafening silence, at the weekend, surrounded the issue of delay in settlement of benefits to relations of dead military officers killed in battlefields in the ongoing war against insurgency in the country.
 
There is disquiet in barracks across the country over the delay in payment of benefits to families of dead soldiers allegedly due to the Minister of Finance’s failure to endorse payment of premium to the insurers for their claims to be paid.
 
Efforts to get explanation from the Minister, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, as well as from the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, whose office is in charge of disbursements, failed since Friday as calls and messages to their phones were neither picked not messages answered.

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Even the Director of Information and Press Relation in the ministry, Mr. Charles Nwodo, who promised to get back to this paper was yet to do so at press time, yesterday.

Besides, the retired officers raised concern on late implementation of Military Pensioners Wage Consequential Adjustment and sharp deduction below approved rate.

Speaking with journalists yesterday, Publicity Officer of Retired Army, Navy, Airforce Officers Association (RANAO), Kano chapter, Captain Yusuf Abdulmaliq retired, said retired officers are being denied their entitlement.

Abdulmaliq explained that since April 2019 Federal Government approval of the Consequential adjustment salaries for the military retirees, Military Pension Board only commenced the implementation on May27, 2021.

Abdulmaliq, however, worried that despite the 25 months delay, the military board failed to implement the consequential salaries as approved by National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
 
The welfare of ex-soldiers in recent times has taken a back seat, particularly under this administration, leading to an open outcry in January of this year when ex- service men embarked on a protest to the Federal Ministry of Finance disrupting operations in the office located in the Central Business District of Abuja.

The protest by the ex-servicemen may have signposted an indication that Nigeria may be quietly creeping back to her worst military pension administration, which culminated to a major crisis between 2000 and 2004. This was before it was sanitised by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2004 courtesy of the Pension Reform Act, which set up the National Pension Commission (PenCom) to manage both public and private sector workers’ pensions to avoid the ugly reoccurrence, where particularly stranded and retired military walk around cities begging for survival, while waiting to be verified and attended to.

Abdulmalik expressed the fear that unless the irregularities are summarily subjected to thorough scrutiny by relevant financial crime agencies, military pensioners may end up losing accumulate arrears and the deducted percentage.

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“We don’t want this situation to end up the way 33 per cent was deducted out of the 53 percent increase in the consolidated salaries approved by Jonathan government.

“We were told by the then minister of Finance that the 33 per cent were deducted for military housing scheme and tax. As at today, nobody has ever receive or allocated any house. By loss, retired officers are excluded from tax payment. This is how we lost the 33 per cent. We don’t want that to happen here,” he said..
 
On January 13, the leader of the ex-servicemen, Mr. Anthony Agbas, said payment of Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment and its arrears with effect from April 2019, and payment of Security Debarment Allowance (SDA) to all retirees and not only to those who retired from November 2017, as is currently being implemented, are among the reasons they staged the protest.

Others are the immediate stoppage and reversal of deductions made on the pay of some medically-discharged veterans, implementation of the New Armed Forces Salary Structure this year 2021, with its accrued arrears, and realistic National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to assist and alleviate burdens and pains of medically boarded veterans in particular and veterans in general.

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