PTAD and the burden of restoring lost hopes to pensioners

After 16 years of starvation that sent many of them and  family to their early graves, the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has finally come to the rescue of retrenched workers of Savannah Sugar Company  in Adamawa state. MUAZU ABARI writes.
The joy of every soul is to serve the country and contributes towards the development of society and subsequently retire in dignity in order to pave way for the younger ones while enjoying the pension, gratuity and other entitlements to keep life afloat.
The roles played by pensioners in the development of any society cannot be under estimated. It is for this  reason that most countries of the world continued to treat their pensioners with respect  as senior citizens in order to tap from their wealth of experiences taking into consideration their reservoir of knowledge, contributions, patriotism and their sacrifices to their fatherland.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria where pensioners are completely relegated in the scheme of things to the extent of being seen as a curse rather than a blessing to the nation.
They continued to suffered neglect arising from government insensitivity towards their plights thereby leading to health challenges and finally send them to their early graves.
This is the situation  retrenched workers of Savannah Sugar Company Numan in Adamawa state found themselves in the last 16 years after loosing their jobs to the privatisation policy which forced them out of labour market.Since loosing their means of livelihoods in 2014, life has been meaningless with untold hardships and hopelessness due to the refusal of successive administrations in the country to come to their rescue by paying them their entitlements.
This was their situation until recently when Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate ( PTAD) led by  Barrister Sharon  Ikeazor decided to turn her human face into their plight and commence a verification exercise to settle their  entitlements accumulated over the years.
Pensioners laud PTADNarrating their ordeal and happiness to journalists in Yola, the chairman, retrenched workers association of the company  Mr Joseph vandyi  applauded President Muhammadu Buhari and the current leadership of PTAD for sympathising with them and treat them like human beings.
He further explained that their sufferings  in the last 16 years knows no bound to the extent of sending some of their members and their families to their early grave while so many others are still laying down with strokes and several health challenges.
“Today our happiness knows no bound.  This is unbelievable and we don’t know how to thank this government and the current leadership of PTAD but we will continue to put them in our prayers in the remaining parts of our lives.
“We have been suffering for the past 15 years without any help and we have done everything within our power to draw the attention of successful administrations to our plight but all to no avail, so we handed over our issue to God for his emancipation.
“Honestly, we are not expecting this verification exercise to be now or even in the nearest future but to the glory of God and humane disposition of this government and leadership of PTAD, here we are undergoing verification. Our prayer is that after this verification, government will swing into action immediately to pay us our entitlements which is long over due.
“Presently, many of our members are down with strokes and many forms of diseases which they were able to manage when they were working but since their retrenchment, they became financially incapacitated making it impossible for them to take care of their health challenges.
“Many of our children have dropped out from school; in fact, we have lost 325 members with the exception of those that lost their lives in 2013 upward.All the affected pensioners were successfully screened by PTAD after presenting the originals and photocopies of their relevant documents.Exercise in line with gov’t welfare programme – IkeazorIn her message at the venue, Barrister Ikeazor said the exercise is in furtherance of President Buhari’s  commitments to improving the welfare of all Nigeria pensioners especially those neglected by the previous administrations.
She assured that the verification of all other treasury funded parastatals including defaults /privatised agencies have been completed and will commence shortly across the country.It would be recalled that since the restoration of democracy in 1999, various administrations in the country have come out with different strategies to mitigate the suffering of pensioners but all to no avail.This prompted the Obasanjo’s administration to take a step further by introducing a new pension administration system known as ‘Contributory Pension Scheme’ which is a radical departure from defined benefit scheme where both the employers and employees are expected to contribute some percentages to build a retirement fund for the employeesDespite the advantages of this new pension scheme and improvements recorded, the challenges continued unabated with so many issues and pensioners not captured in the new contributory pension scheme.To addressed these challenges, the federal government in August 2013  established PTAD in line with the provisions of Section 30 (2) (a) of the Pension Reform Act 2004 now PRA Act 2014 to consolidate and manage defunct pension offices of civil service pensions, police, customs, immigration, prison pensions and treasury-funded federal government parastatals.
The mandate given to PTAD includes managing pensions under DBS for pensioners who do not transit to the new contributory pension scheme.
Other parts of their mandate is to prepare and submit the monthly payroll of pensioners to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for direct payment from the budgetary allocation maintained with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pensioners bank accounts. 
Unfortunately, since its establishment, not much have been heard about it’s activities much more of its achievements until 2016 when President Buhari appointed IIkeazo as its executive secretary.
Since her assumption to duty she left no one in doubt that her mission in PTAD is to right the injustice and wrongs of the past, reform and restore the battered image of PTAD and make life easier for pensioners.Within the shortest time she resumed office, she succeeded in saving the sum of 4billion naira for the federal government through the annual payroll clean up as a result of the civil service verification exercise in addition to computation and payment of pension arrears to over 50,000 verified civil service pensioners.
PTAD under her leadership  has succeeded in verifying over 496 war affected police officers and paid a total sum of #917,656,891.39 to 432 pensioners in this category .
The agency also added over 15,000 pensioners of the following privatised agencies in the pay roll: Nigeria re- insurance, Nicon insurance, Delta Steel company, Nitel/Mtel, Nigeria Defence Academy, Federal Housing Authority and New Nigeria Newspapers, among others privatised since 2005. These categories were paid a total monthly sum of #840,003,651.07.
In the area of payment of outstanding pension arrears including the 33%, PTAD under her leadership had since commenced payment of the 33% arrears in 2016 and 2017 and additional payments to all sectors that have the arrears. As at December 2018, the agency was able to offset some of the arrears from all the pension departments.

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