Dr. Chioma Nnenna Ejikeme recently assumed office as executive secretary, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). She takes over from Barr Sharon Ikeazor, who is acclaimed as having changed the directorate’s narrative for the better. Ejikeme’s appointment signposts President Muhammadu Buhari’s confidence in women, however, it places on her the burden of not only filling her predecessor’s big shoes but also to effectively represent the Nigerian woman. In this report, ENE OSANG looks at the antecedents of the new PTAD boss as well as the task ahead.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been faulted by many gender activists for low involvement of women in governance; however, the President demonstrated confidence in the Nigerian woman by appointing Barr Sharon Ikeazor executive secretary, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), at a time the country’s pension scheme was in dare need of reform.
Having performed creditable, the President nominated her into his cabinet as a minister necessitating a search for her replacement. President Buhari’s choice of another woman, Dr. Chioma Nnenna Ejikeme, as executive secretary PTAD has made effective representation of the Nigerian woman by succeeding imperative for the new boss of the directorate.
PTAD before Ikeazor
PTAD is responsible for the pension administration of the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) and was established to address the numerous pensioners’ complaints that borderd on issues of non-payment of monthly pension, short payment of pension and gratuity, removal of pensioners names on payment voucher, non-payment of harmonized pension arrears, irregular payment of federal pensions and non receipt of pension after retirement, among others.
The directorate was established in August 2013 in line with the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2004, to centrally manage the old pension scheme and spearhead the smooth transition of the three offices into a single pension administration and management under the National Pension Commission (PENCOM).
It was, however, rocked by scandals and allegations of fraud including high number of ghost ex-workers on the payroll, while genuine ones suffered, accruing huge amount of liabilities. The lack of database and information on pensioners made it even more difficult to resolve issues around the scheme.
This trend defeated the aim for which the agency was set up, which was originally to ensure that pensioners who have spent the better part of their lives working hard for the country are properly served and receive their due entitlements.
Advance of Ikeazor as executive secretary
In 2016, President Buhari appointed Barr Ikeazor as the executive secretary of PTAD. In realisation of the rot in the directorate she worked assiduously and made a lot of policy changes that brought about positive reforms to PTAD.
She disclosed on assuming office, her resolve to turn the directorate around, even as she raised the alarm over the height of fraudulent activities she met on ground.
According to Ikeazor, “Pension administration in Nigeria, especially the old pension scheme, had experienced a lot of mismanagement. That created grave distrust of government among workers.”
However, the narrative changed for the better as she ensured an improved pensioners welfare, having made it a personal mission to ensure that pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme (DBS) across the nation were heard, well represented to the government and served with the upmost empathy and respect.
The directorate, during her tenure committed to the verification exercise, a process that built a credible and genuine database of pensioners.
The process aided the removal of ineligible pensioners, while genuine pensioners who were omitted are enrolled unto the payroll, and their authentic documentation used for computing their arrears and determining the Federal Governments accurate pension liabilities are gathered.
Through the verification process, the directorate was able to payroll 17,845 new civil service pensioners including their arrears totalling over N755million.
Today, pensioners are getting what is due to them. They are happier, healthier and are assured of their monthly entitlements.
“The first time I met the staff I saw the low morale. There was despondency everywhere among the staff. There was no job security. Pensioners were complaining. The staff issues were those of no confirmation of appointments for more than three years and wrong placements. These were things that bred disaffection among staff, and such an atmosphere, productivity would be impacted negatively,” she said.
Ikeazor focused on all matters relating to the welfare of pensioners and a year after, she had kept her promise to pensioners of better days ahead.
She ensured the verification of pensioners, prompt payment of their entitlements, amongst other achievements, giving a facelift to the plight of pensioners in the country
PTAD through its verification exercise identified 15,600 names of pensioners without Bank Verification Number (BVN) and removed from the payroll, enabling them save N300 million monthly which was used to settle other genuine pensioners.
She also said the payment of N1.58 billion to the Next of Kins (NOKs) in the Education and Health parastatals validated under the Parastatals Pension Validation Exercise (PPVE) carried out by the Pension Commission (PENCOM) is part of the achievement recorded with the commencement of verification in 2016/2017.
Another success of the exercise was the payroll clean-up and efficient administration which resulted in the reduction of liabilities by N10 billion and N5.7 billlion, including the data capture of excluded pensioners of 10 defunct privatized agencies.
The verification exercise was critical to the successful delivery of its mandate; the automation of payment processes and the use of government-to-person electronic payments is a reform strategy that has recorded huge success for PTAD.
Today, pensioners receive their payments directly into their bank accounts and are paid by the 20th day of every month without delay.
Dr. Chioma Nnenna Ejikeme, who was recently appointed to succeed Ikeazor, was born on August 31, 1958, to the family of the Late Chief Ukachi Ikemba, an educationist and political secretary to the Premier of the Defunct Eastern Nigeria, Dr. M. I. Okpara.
Ejikeme started her Primary School education at the All Saints School, Enugu in 1964. She attended Queens School, Enugu from 1971-1975 for her Secondary Education.
In 1976, she was admitted into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where she obtained a Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MB.BS) degree in 1982. She also obtained a Masters Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Lagos in 2002.
The task ahead
Speaking at the formal hand over, last week, from her predecessor, Dr. Ejikeme promised to build on the solid foundation laid by Barr Ikeazor.
She vowed to uphold the rights and welfare of the pensioners as well as welfare of staff the directorate, even as she appealed for commitment and loyalty from the management and staff of PTAD.
Ejikeme, a medical practitioner, administrator and entrepreneur of over 36 years, started her working careers as a House Officer at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, in 1983.
She served the mandatory National Youth Service with the Ministry of Defence (Nigerian Airforce Medical Services Onikan Lagos) and was retained after NYSC where she rose from Senior Medical Officer II to Principal Medical Officer II (GL 15) until the year 2004.
As a medical officer in the Nigerian Air Force Medical Services for close to 20 years, she was part of a team that, coordinated, improved and facilitated Health care delivery services within the Nigerian Air Force Medical space.
In 1997, Dr Ejikeme took a leave of absence from the Ministry of Defence to take up appointment as commissioner for health in Anambra state. She was part of the team that handed over to the democratic dispensation in 1999.
As commissioner for health, she led the ministry in policy formulation and implementation while also coordinating health-related programs within the state, between the state and other states in the federation and the state and the federal ministry of health.
She also formulated, coordinated, supervised and evaluated donor agency sponsored health programmes for implementation throughout the state. These agencies include UNICEF, UNFPA and the WHO.
Some of her achievements as commissioner include the establishment of a Central Drug Revolving Fund for the ministry of health; establishment of a Traditional Medicine Board in the state, which was the first to be established in the history of Anambra state.
She also re-organized the existing revenue collection procedure in the state to ensure an effective and affordable health care delivery system.
The astute administrator, also embarked on the infrastructural rehabilitation of state-owned hospitals with refurbishment of wards, provision of bore holes among others, and made sure a state-of-the-art modern Dental Clinic with modern Dental Chairs and Dental X-ray equipment was provided at the General Hospital Onitsha and rehabilitated Primary Health Centers across Anambra State with the construction of a brand-new Primary Health Center in Nkpor Uno, Idemili Local Government Area.
Dr. Ejikeme was also a two-term chairman of the Anambra State Tenders Board during her tenure.
After her tenure as commissioner, Dr Ejikeme returned to the ministry of defence in June of 1999 and voluntarily retired from the civil service in 2004. Since her retirement, she has availed herself of update courses, attending courses at the then Lagos Business School (LBS) in Manufacturing Management, Accounting for Non-Accountants and the Stanford Seed Transformation Programme for West Africa in Ghana amongst many other update courses.
She is a life member of the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) of the Pan Atlantic University (Former Lagos Business School); a member of the National Association of Small-Scale Industrialists (NASSI) Lagos Chapter; member Lagos State Chamber Of Commerce & Industry and member Stanford Seed Transformation Network West Africa.
She is also a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a co-opted member of the Anambra State 2019 Presidential Campaign Team.
Until her appointment as executive secretary Dr Ejikeme ran a medium-scale manufacturing company, Karen-Happuck Nigeria Limited, which has been in operation for 15 years.
As the founder and chief executive of the company, she successfully built strong brands and been a mentor to up and coming entrepreneurs.
Karen-Happuck has also been providing employment opportunities for Nigerians and has imparted skills to a lot of otherwise unskilled workers through training on the job.
Dr. Ejikeme is married to Arc. Emeka Olisa Ejikeme, a consultant, with three children and two grandchildren. She loves reading, aerobics and travelling.
Building collaborative successes
Even though PTAD has received numerous accolades in recent times, a lot still needed to be achieved and one of such salient issue is the yet to be completed payment of 33 per cent arrears to retirees under the Treasury-funded parastatals.
Speaking at an interactive session/reception in honour of the former executive secretary chairman of the military pension board Major General A B Adamu, represented by Commander Tsado Adama, charged her to build on the several collaborative successes and tremendous achievements while also bringing new strides.
Representative of the Inspector General of Police, Hamza Sule, particularly noted the efficient biometric capturing/data of retirees of various agencies, saying this was a great achievement and worth emulating.
Similarly, the national coordinator and chief executive officer (CEO) of SERVICOM Nnenna Akajemeli emphasised the importance of bringing innovative ideas and strategic thinking to issues relating to pensioners, stressing also the need for an improved citizens-centered service delivery in the directorate.