‘We’ve recovered over N16 billion from insurance underwriters handling pensions before PTAD’
Nigerian Pensions administration dates back to the1950s. However, the Pension Reforms Act of 2004 paved way for a new pension scheme in Nigeria, which is a defined contributory scheme unlike the old scheme that was based largely on defined benefits.
The reform became imperative in the face of government’s inability to meet pension overheads, which has continued to cut deep into national budgets. One of the major objectives of the reforms was to assist improvident individuals by ensuring that they save to cater for their livelihood at old age.
There was also the need to alleviate old age and household poverty by extending the policy to all sectors of the economy. The defined benefit scheme (DBS) (or pay-as-you-go, as it is sometimes referred to), which the public sector has operated for many years, has failed to live up to the financial and development aspirations of the country (and its economy).
The private sector compliance ratio has also been low, because of a lack of effective regulation and supervisory mechanism for the system. Nigeria operated defined benefit scheme between January 1, 1946 and June 2004. The Pension Reform Act was enacted on June 25 and came into effect on July 1, 2004. It established a defined contributory (DC) scheme as against the DBS.
Meanwhile, the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), an agency of the Federal Government, was established in August 2013 in line with the provisions of the pension reform act, 2004, to manage the old pension scheme at the centre and spearhead the smooth transition of the three offices into a single pension administration and management under the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).
PTAD comprises the Civil Service Pension Department (CSPD), the Police Pension Department (PPD), the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Department (CIPPD), the Treasury Funded Parastatals Pension Department (PaPD) and the Pension Support Services Department (PSSD).
In accordance with another Act of the National Assembly, the Military Pension Department (MPD) and the Security Agencies Pension Department (SAPD) were exempted from the consolidation and management of PTAD.
But the purpose of its establishment was, however, hampered by scandals and fraud, including a high number of ghost ex-workers in the payroll, while the genuine ones suffered. There were also issues of accrued huge amount of liabilities and lack of database and information on pensioners, making it difficult to resolve issues around the scheme. Again, dearth of effective enforcement of the existing pension regulations remained a huge challenge.
No doubt, this ugly trend clearly defeated the objective for which the agency was set up, which was meant to ensure that pensioners, who have spent a better part of their lives working hard for the country, are properly served and receive their due entitlements.
However, since September 2016 when Barrister Sharon Ikeazor assumed office as Executive Secretary of PTAD, things are changing. The verification of pensioners and prompt payment of their entitlements, due diligence among other achievements, have evolved a new narrative away from the unpleasant tales of the recent past.
Consequently, the verification exercise in PTAD has now been digitised. This involved capturing pensioners’ biometric data, including their photograph and finger prints, scanning of their services records and documents, bank statements, which after collected is stored in a centralised server for easy management of payrolls. This is in contrast to the analogue method of records on pensioners in the past, which was usually cumbersome to manage, thereby giving room for sharp practices. This also subjected senior citizens to a rigorous experience with a record number of pensioners passing away on queues, while trying to get their entitlements.
Just recently, PTAD announced the payment of N6, 314,762,464.60 being six months arrears of the 33 per cent pension increment. The payment covers 101,393 Civil Service Pensioners on all grade levels and 76, 310 pensioners of 186 government agencies. PTAD had fully settled the inherited backlog of the 33 per cent pension arrears of Customs, Immigration and Prisons, as well as Police pensioners in 2016 and 2018, including some former Biafran police officers.
Born into the family of Chief Chimezie Ikeazor (SAN) in Obosi, Anambra State, Sharon graduated with an LLB Hons. in 1984 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1985. She has 27 years’ post-graduation experience as a Solicitor and Advocate and experience in business development for multinational companies, project management, banking administration, national and international government liaison.
She worked with international oil companies, international consulting and engineering firms, and rose to senior vice president of an international consulting firm. In January 2011, she joined contested and won the post of the national women leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). After the merger of three political parties in 2013, she emerged the interim national woman leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and was appointed the Executive Secretary of PTAD in 2016.
In this interview with, she spoke on efforts so far and how PTAD is blocking leakages in the nation’s pensions administration.
A lot of Nigerians are aware of the issues with pensions in Nigeria, but the picture of pensioners files, which surfaced online recently was a clear indication of how bad things were. Since assuming office as Executive Secretary of PITAD, how far have you gone in redeeming the situation?
Well, those files are not stored in that state in PTAD today; we’ve digitised everything. PTAD inherited four pension departments: The Police Pension Office that was being run for the defined benefits scheme; The Civil Service Pension Department being run by the Head of Office; we have the old CIPRO office, which comprises Customs, Immigration and Prison Service; then the Parastatals Pension Department. We took over the pension Board of Trustees’ offices of over 20 parastatals and agencies– Universities, Federal Colleges of Educations, Medical Centres, NTA, PHCN and others. PTAD took over in 2013 with the Pension Reform Act, which was put in place to address the maladministration that had become endemic and fraught with a lot of fraud. With the Pension Reform Act, PTAD came into being to take over those pensioners, who retired before 2006; those that did not transit to the new contributory pension scheme, which is obtainable and is being administered by Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) under the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).
PENCOM regulates PTAD, as well. Every year, they come here to examine our processes, our books and our database because that’s key to pension administration; you must have a secure, credible database. Talking of secure, credible database now takes me to the essence of the verification we have been doing. But before I go into verification, let me now stay back on your first question; the files you saw. Like I said, we inherited four pension departments and those files were dumped in those offices like that.
For how long were those files kept like that?
As far as 2013, I came into PTAD in October 2016 and studied the entire processes. When we were computing pension payments, we have to look at your service records; you must have your first letter of appointment, your promotion letters, retirements, salaries and all that. Along the line, we found that there were some outstanding complaints that we could not resolve because we didn’t have the service records. Also, we had claims from next-of-kin of deceased pensioners coming to claim death benefits. If we pay without having the service records, how do we tell if the old officers had been paid before due of lack of record keeping?
So, what exactly happened to the records before now?
The records existed, but what they were relying on was the records brought by the claimants. But that’s not right; you have to go further than that because there are issues of forgery. That’s why in PTAD, I’ve had to train my staff on how to detect forged documents.
You talked about forgery, has there been any case and what has PTAD done so far in terms of prosecution?
Oh yes! We’ve had a lot of issues like that; we have had cases like that and we have taken them to courts. So, those files were retrieved from the records of all our pensioners. Now, when their next-of-kin come to lay their claim, we verify their service records through those files. And some of the agencies, by the time we did the file retrievals (I don’t want to mention the pension office where we got those files from) we found that some of the next-of-kin of the deceased had come earlier to make their claims and had been paid without the correct records.
Are you saying that most of the claimants have been paid before?
Yes, but they came back to make another claim. I feel the government should never suffer the jeopardy of paying someone twice, so that government funds can go round. In fact, we have the case of a privatised agency that government took over and we got the approval to verify them and payroll them. Before and after the computations, we wrote to the Ministry of Finance, which is our supervising agency that these are the number of pensioners that qualify to be pay-rolled from our computations, asking for the release of funds. Funny enough, the cash management office wrote us back, listing the pension warrants, and the amounts were in billions, that have been paid to the same agency. The warrants clearly stated ‘Pension Payments.’ So, what we did was to call the management of that agency and their pension unions. Of course, pension unions would be agitating to be put on payroll and they would think PTAD is delaying.
That has always been the issue because most pensioners believe the delay is from PTAD?
They think the delay is coming from us, but what they don’t realise is that we are doing a thorough job. So, right now, everyone, both government and the pensioners, are protected. We have to protect government as well and the key to that is keeping correct records. Luckily, the Ministry of Finance has the records, and they wrote us, telling us the payment warrants of this agency. So, we convened meetings with management and unions and presented this to them. The unions didn’t even know that these monies were presented to management. There is no way government can pay twice, we explained that to them.
Since the government provided the fund, did you make efforts to ascertain what happened since the pensioners were not paid?
They didn’t use all the monies for pensions. What we found with PTAD was that most of these handling, the pension administration of these pensioners transferred the liabilities without transferring the assets. I’d refer to that assets bit because we have recovered over N16 billion from the insurance underwriters, who were handling pensions before PTAD was established. It was in 2017 that I called a meeting of all managing directors of the insurance companies to say that, ‘these are the monies from records we’ve obtained from the Accountant General, Ministry of Finance, and these are the monies that have been paid to you from these agencies whose pensions you administer, but all you have done is transfer their liabilities to us, which was the payroll, without their assets.’ So, we had to send our people to audit these insurance firms to find out what is all there. So, going back to that agency, we clearly told them we couldn’t pay, but the matter now went to court; the pension union went to court. Luckily, we now went to the Attorney General to make a case for the due pensioners because, some of them were actually pensioners before the agency was privatised. We asked if we could place them on monthly pensions because this is a year after they had been verified; those that had been verified before them had been put on payroll. Whatever we do, we have to be compassionate. If we could place them on monthly payroll, because we cannot pay them their arrears, then we wait until we find out how much was paid and how much would be deducted to find out their final figures for that. These are the challenges we face. So, when you hear that PTAD doesn’t want to pay, we are only doing due diligence.
It seems we never had that due diligence when it comes to pension payments
That’s part of the challenges I met. For us to build strong institutions, we have to change our ways. We have to put checks and balances in place. The bane of Nigeria is that there have never been consequences for infractions. For as long as you continue like that, things would not change. So, when you talk about pension fraud, it’s not only the pension administrators that are fraudsters; some of the pensioners are fraudulent as well.
Do you have any case at hand?
Yes, there was a lady, an elderly woman, who had been complaining that she had been taken off the payroll, that PTAD had never paid her. She went round the media houses – radio stations and all. Usually, in my compassionate way, I go out of my way to find such person when I hear about them. So, she was on a radio station one day, I heard about her and I sent a car to pick her up. At first, she was reluctant to come in, but I said, ‘No, we must go in, so that we sort out your case. Let’s have your account number where you have been receiving your pension.’ She was hesitant in giving that to us. I said, ‘no, mama, you have to give it to us.’ So, we now checked on our system and found that this woman was on grade level two, but she was earning the pension of a grade level 14 officer. When we confronted her, we printed out everything, because all these we found out when we did our verifications. So, we took off those ones, who did not qualify; those who did not have Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) for their bank accounts; those that were wrongly imputed into the payroll. From your service records, we can tell your grade level when you retired. So, those ones we re-adjusted and brought them back.
What then happened to the monies already paid?
We also started a recovery process because we have to return those monies to the treasury. But we don’t cut them off; we leave a certain percentage of their pension for them to survive on, then the others we take back. They have to pay back what they took from government. So, for this woman, now, when we showed her she said ‘Ehr, it wasn’t really my fault.’ That was the last we heard of her and that was the last time she went to any radio to complain that government wasn’t paying her pensions.
So, how did it happen?
This was what was happening in the past. You know in the past, they were giving cheques for pensions; payments weren’t automated and monies were kept in bank accounts. Now, in PTAD, we are 100 per cent Treasury Single Account (TSA) compliant. We don’t pay in cheques; we pay through the different payment platforms or Remita, directly from our TSA with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) into the customers’ account. So, all that has been eliminated. Even in our computations of pensions, we have checks and balances in place; one person initiates, another person computes, then another person checks the computation. From there, it goes to the Federal Auditors; we have auditors from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation that are in here to eliminate error and fraud. Once I don’t see their audits down on the payroll, I do not approve for payment. These are the checks we have put in place that it’s very hard now for pension administrators to perpetrate the fraud. But that doesn’t mean there is still no fraud; we are in the process of cleaning up our database. For the inherited ones, we have carried out verifications for three pension departments. For instance, when we took out verification of the Police, 18,000 pensioners were on the payroll. After verification, it dropped to 13, 000, because we saw multiple pensioners with the same account numbers; different account numbers, but with the same names. Some would just adjust their age. So, we have done the data cleanup for police pension and it is clear now.
Then, we have also done the service pension department verification, which resulted in our dropping 24, 000 people in March this year. We started the verification for the civil service department in 2015 and ran till the end of 2017. Of the 24, 000 pensioners we dropped from the list, only about 10 to 15 per cent have actually come back with their genuine documents and asked for verification; those we dropped were those who never shoed up for verification.
How do you go about your verification exercise, considering that most of these pensioners are aged and might not be able to go through the strenuous exercise?
We had field verifications in the six geo-political zones of the country running for two years. We also advertised in the papers letting those who are very sick and too old to come out to know that we have our mobile verification team that actually go to their homes and hospitals to verify them. I have gone several times to hospitals with the verification team to verify some of our pensioners. So, since most of them didn’t come out, we assumed that either they are deceased or they were not genuine pensioners. As we dropped those 24,000 pensioners, their files are being scrutinised.
Beyond your discoveries and revelations, are there concrete punishments for the offenders to serve as deterrent to others?
Where do we find them? The addresses they put in these files are not there. There’s a case of one man that forged documents and was claiming pension from two agencies. You can only have one pay point for pension; government cannot pay you twice. If you had worked in two separate places, you have what we call merger of service so that it’s one pay point for government to pay you. These are the things we found out. The man is now being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) because I set up an Anti-Corruption Transparency Unit in collaboration with ICPC, such that when we see these cases, we transfer to them and they help us with prosecution to serve as a deterrent to others.
Besides the pensioners, we have fraudsters, who had access to most of these data we inherited. So, they actually called the pensioners and asked them to send money to them to fast track their pension payments; we only get to know when the pensioners don’t receive anything. Then, they now call us to report that that staff called them and asked for money and they transferred the money. But when we asked for names and phone numbers, you find that they are not PTAD staff.
Are there efforts by PTAD to sensitise pensioners to avoid falling into the hands of these fraudsters?
We have gone on a media drive to educate pensioners. In the past, you had to ‘grease palms’ to get your pension, but they have to understand that all that has changed. Pension payments are free. During our verifications, pensioners don’t queue up; we rent event centres and halls. The last one we did at City Hall Lagos, we served them lunch. We had mobile ambulances and medical personnel on standby, because these are the aged who had toiled to build the country when there were young. This is how we treat them now.
You assumed office in 2016, what exactly happened with the arrears you are paying now? Does it mean government didn’t release the money? If it did, do you have an idea what happened to it?
For that one, you would probably be able to ask the Presidents of the Pension Unions. I know that in Police Pension, it’s the retired DIG or AIG, Fidelis Oyakhilome, who was former Governor of Old Rivers State, who had mentioned it at one of the public hearings we went (for) on pension that there was a certain amount, I think about 24 billion, of police pension fund that was never accounted for. I think before the enforcement of TSA, a lot of these monies could easily be misappropriated, but with TSA now, you can’t; every penny is accounted for.
Talking about this TSA, you are sitting here today, how much has that helped with what you are doing at PTAD?
That has helped greatly; TSA is the best thing that happened to Nigeria. It has blocked the leakages. I mean, if you find out from the Ministry of Finance or Budget and Planning, they can tell you how much government has saved from the TSA, and I bet you, it runs into billions. For you to make payments even to contractors they must be registered under the payment platform; and to register for that, they must have paid their taxes. In the past, you could get any contractor or supplier on the streets to supply you anything and you sign off. Today, we upload every payment on the payment platform and that is linked to the TSA. That platform is under the office of the Accountant General of the Federation. Everything is centrally controlled. It has helped a lot in management of finances.
The Nigerian Civil war ended in 1970, but the payment of police officers who fought on the Biafran side were only paid this year. What was responsible for the delay?
I remember the war ended and General Yakubu Gowon had come up with ‘No Victor. No Vanquished’ mantra. As part of the reintegration, a few were taken back. This cuts across not only police; military, customs and education. A few were taken back into their old positions in the system after the war, but they had some policemen and soldiers, who were not reabsorbed. So, in 2000, the government now granted them amnesty – that instead of dismissal, it should be converted to retirement. And if you retire, you should be paid your gratuities and your pension. Sadly, 17 years on, it never happened. They were the first set of pension unions I met when I came in, who came to present their case. PTAD had verified them, but never pay-rolled majority of them; a few had been actually paid, but majority hadn’t been paid. I looked into the case again and we completed the payments; we went to them in Enugu to make those payments. What struck me was one of them, who said to me, ‘my daughter, this is all I’m waiting for before I die, because it would show me that Nigeria has forgiven us.’ You know, we still have the scars from the war that we do not like. These are all part of the social injustices that we should use governance to correct. The amount is not much, but no matter how small it is, it is a validation for them that they are part of Nigeria. Some of them have been receiving and those who have died their next-of-kins were paid one-off. However, the surviving ones are on our payroll right now. This cuts across not just the Southeast; from the South-South all the way down to Akwa Ibom. In fact, I got a claim recently. The man is late now and his children are all in England. They saw the Channels TV interview I had, where we were talking about the Biafran policemen and they wrote in about their dad; they are from Asaba. I gave them the list of documents that they need to present to prove it, and if he died before the amnesty as well. So, once they bring all these documents, the Police Pension Service Commission would verify as well, because they have the list of these policemen. I’m glad that is one of the good things we have done. We have the privatised agencies, who were just as forgotten, like Aladja Steel Company in Delta State, which was privatised in 2005.
So, what has been happening before now? Does that mean there was no pensions administrator?
We had administrators and government, but like I have always said, if you come into governance or politics for service, you would be able to do a lot for your people. But if you come in for patronage, you only think of yourself. That’s why I always advocate for people, who have excelled or retired from the private sector or public service, to come into politics. They have seen it all; they have made their money, they are not coming to office to enhance themselves, rater they are coming to render service to the people. The same thing I tell my PTAD staff, ‘if you are not passionate about this job, you can’t excel in it.’ I’m passionate about what I’m doing and that’s why everyone thinks, ‘Oh, wasn’t there anyone here before?’ If you don’t listen to your people to see what their problems are, how can you touch their lives? I had heard of Aladja Steel Company during one of our verifications; I sent a message that I would like to see them. I thought I would see a few men, but I was shocked that over 1000 elderly men and women gathered in a town hall waiting for me. Some had gone blind as a result of glaucoma; they couldn’t afford their drugs. They told stories of how many had died; they were crying. I cried too. So, I now said to them, ‘We would be back to verify.’ They didn’t believe me, because they had lost hope; they didn’t trust government anymore. So, all of us in public service should build trust. When you make a commitment, make sure you fulfill it. That way, you have built trust, so that when you talk as government, they would believe you. People don’t believe in Nigeria anymore; they don’t believe in government.
Don’t you think it’s because of their previous experiences with government over the years?
Exactly, it’s going to take time to get there. It would only happen when you are showing them results. If you tell anyone now in Aladja that the government works, they would believe you; they have seen the alerts on their fathers’ phone, on their uncle or relatives. The same thing is happening with NITEL (Nigerian Telecommunications Limited). When was NITEL privatised? But we just pay rolled them this year.
How come workers’ welfare was not considered when some of these government establishments were privatised?
I can’t speak for the past administrations, but all I can say is that government is a continuum; we should not blame anyone. It is for the citizens to question the role of government and hold their government accountable. You’d find that our citizens don’t hold our government accountable; that’s why they get away with everything. With this administration and the few of us, who are here for service, we would make that difference and I think we are making that difference. Again, you have to change the mindset of the workforce.
So, what has really changed in PTAD?
The attitude of those at the top; I don’t work anywhere without impacting positively on the people I work with. Each and every one of them I see as family; they are my children, I talk to them. Not that I’m not hard, but I talk to them. I ask what their issues are and I tell them that if it is just about the salary you earn, you can’t survive here. We are dealing with fragile human beings, who need care. So, you must have patience, compassion and empathy for them. It’s been a demanding task, but we are getting there. You can walk around and talk to the staff; they are what civil servants should be like. You cannot be rude to any of our pensioners; they know there’s consequence for such act. Sorry doesn’t cut it. You do this (and) this is what you get. You are good? There is a reward for that. It is the same staff that is performing the wonders in PTAD that everyone is talking about. When I came in here, I could sense the unease and agitation. What was their problem? Ever since its inception in 2013, their appointments had not been confirmed; people were wrongly placed. ‘Man know man,’ Oh, you know this person? They would put you, maybe, two grade levels above your pay. I sensed that, so, when I came in, I started having staff meetings with each grade level without their superiors so they could talk to me. ‘Tell me what the problems are, how do we solve them?’ A few were very afraid to talk to me, but I said, ‘No, once you are saying the truth, you have nothing to fear.’ By the time they said all that, I understood what the issue was. It’s not that they didn’t want to work; they were not given the proper atmosphere to work. So, I set about setting up a staff audit; I contacted the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and my supervising ministry. We carried out staff audit and from there, we found other things; those that have irregular appointments. That’s why we got four of our directors out of PTAD. They were over the age of 50 and they came into public service and put on pensionable employment; that’s a breach of public service rules. Those that had forged certificates, ICPC took care of that, because the staff audit, we did it with ICPC to verify every certificate of every staff of PTAD. Once that was completed, we now did the proper placement of every staff. So, everyone was placed where they ought to have been depending on their years of experience and qualifications; that’s enough motivation.
Initially, they didn’t believe. They said, ‘Ah! They won’t implement.’ No matter what the government says, nobody wants to agree with government. It’s just like PTAD; when pensioners come to our state offices or come here or go to our verifications, they ask, ‘Are we in Nigeria? Is this really Nigeria?’ And it pains me whenever they say that.
There are cases of pensioners who dead but they are still receiving payment from government. What’s PTAD doing in that regard?
Government is losing a lot of money paying deceased pensioners for many years. That is why we work closely with the pension unions; when any of their members die, they write to us to notify us that their member died. But then, they have to attach their death certificates so we can take them off our payroll. We had issues when they had written to us that some pensioners had died; this was in Borno State. But some of those pensioners were alive, but were taken captive by Boko Haram. We actually went to the state to do civil service verification; we went to Maiduguri. From Maiduguri, we went to Damaturu and we did Gombe, Bauchi and Adamawa; these are peculiar areas. In fact, by the time we did the Maiduguri verifications, we had to send the information of the venue to the pension unions via word of mouth for security reasons. A lot of pensioners did come out. After the verification, we got letters telling us of some, who had died and we had taken them off the payroll. Then, we got information through our network with the Pension Unions that there were about 500 pensioners, who could not come to the verification, because they were in several Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps; some had been across the border and all that, some had been taken captive and all. But now, with improved security, a lot of them have come back. In fact, recently, we were in Maiduguri for five days for the verification of these pensioners, which was really a sad case. But I’m glad we were able to go back and verify them all, because there’s no other way for us to know when our pensioners are deceased; we continue paying into their bank accounts. It’s only when the families of the deceased come to the bank to close the account with their letter of administration to collect the estate of the man or woman, the bank now writes us. They have seen the inflow stating ‘pension’ and they now write us to say ‘this pensioner is dead’, and within a certain period, say two weeks, they normally give us to lay a claim for the monies to be returned. If not, we have no other way of knowing. We’ve had cases where pensioners had died and their families didn’t report to us; they use Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards to do withdrawals.
So, until the ATM cards expire, we can’t know. That’s why we are trying to deploy technology for our pensioners to have a combo card. When they have their verifications filled, we get their biometrics – their fingerprints and all, so that we can use that to validate them every six months in the comfort of their homes. With that, we can know they are still alive so that we continue the payments.
Some of these innovations come at a cost?
It comes with a lot of costs, but we try to save costs as much as possible. In fact, we have an efficiency unit in here. It is from saving costs that we are able to give our pensioners lunch at the verification exercise; there’s no additional budget for that, it’s out of the pension running costs. But we are very frugal; we plan thoroughly and we execute our plans.
As at the time Mr. President appointed you into office, were there specific mandate from him?
Mr. President probably knew how compassionate I’m towards my fellow human beings. In fact, my favourite quotes is, ‘mankind are my brethren and to do good is my religion.’ So, he probably felt that Sharon is compassionate and she could handle the pension issue because he knows me for fighting against social injustice. That’s what I was doing before I came into the CPC and then to APC. Of course, I sat down and I studied this pension format and what exactly is PTAD’s mandate, and I sat down with my management team and planned our strategy. Every year, I map out the strategy on what we are going to do. We are already working on the 2019 strategy to be able to know what we want to achieve. These are a number of pensioners we need to verify and those we are going to payroll. Whatever we do, we are going to follow through on the act of PTAD to ensure that everything we do will be done in the interest of the wellbeing of the pensioners.
What happened with the Nigerian Airways staff, was PTAD involved in that process?
Nigerian Airways, I could recall, had been paid a lump sum as a buyout under President Umar Yar’Adua administration a while back; theirs was a buyout, it wasn’t for monthly pension. If it were for monthly pension, they would have been under PTAD. Though PTAD had gotten the approval from the Ministry of Finance to verify and payroll Nigeria Airways, but the Nigeria Airways, you know was a case of liquidation and not privatisation. So, they waited for their buyout; there was a balance. I think it was 50 per cent of that balance of N48 billion that government has just paid. However, PTAD was part of the verification process. We were part of the committee set up by the Ministry of Finance, because PTAD has the expertise in verification and care of pensioners. So, they have been given 50 per cent of the outstanding amount that was owed them. We verified a 160-year-old man. There was a 99-year-old man in Bonny Island, Rivers State and we went on a speedboat. When you come out to our verifications and you see these people, I mean, the country owes them so much and I’m glad we are part of the people that were able to do this.
How are you dealing with your prosecutions?
In fact, we have a federal auditor that we arrested through EFCC, who had been soliciting for money from our pensioners to process their payments. You know we send files to them for audit; they have the details. They would now call and be asking for money. We returned the money and reported the matter to EFCC, and EFCC is ready to prosecute the case. These are the examples we are setting, and with our people as well, there’s zero tolerance for corruption in PTAD. I can identify that my staff are picking up, because an elderly pensioner reported one staff to me that during her verification, when they finished, she gave him N2,000 and he said, ‘No,’ that he would not accept. ‘It’s against their code to accept.’ She went out and bought snacks for him and the boy turned it down. She now found me to come and complain to me that I must tell the boy to accept. That’s how far it has gone. I always say, ‘If I don’t impact on the lives of the people I work with, I haven’t done my job.’
What do you want to be remembered for when you are done with PTAD?
I’ve never thought of that, you know. I mean, they call me ‘Mama pension’. I want to be remembered as that young girl, who came in and did her bit and left with a smile and a smile on everyone’s face, because I love impacting happiness. Giving feels better than taking.