Since the President Goodluck Jonathan, approved the increment, military pensioners have staged several protests pushing for the implementation.As fallout of those protests, in August 2013, the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala commenced the implementation of only 33 percent of the approved percentage increase in the pension.A pensioner, Captain Yusuf Abdulmalik, the Publicity Officer, Retired Army, Navy and Air Officers Association (RANAO) of the Kano chapter asked in a letter to Daily Trust, “Why does it take more than three years to effect the increase for the military pensioners in August 2013? And why was only 33 percent added to their pay and not the whole of the approved 53 percent?” The 33 percent implementation could not pacify the aggrieved pensioners who have continued to stage peaceful protests, demanding the implementation of the remaining 20 percent of the increment as approved in 2010 and the payment of accrued pension arrears.Repeatedly, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has explained that the full implementation was not feasible as the crisis was as a result of the demand for 53 percent increase in public sector wages implemented by government in 2010, adding that the development had left government with a very high recurrent budget with the resultant adverse financial implications.Still not pacified, the pensioners protested again to the minister in November 2014, when she told them that she was not in the office when the increase in pension was approved and the 53 percent increment had funding challenge which had constrained the federal government. However, Abdulmalik asked, “Is the minister of finance aware that pension is a right in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?” One concern over the years since the implementation of part of the approved increment was the non-payment of accrued arrears. While the pensioners started enjoying the increment in their monthly pension since 2013, the payment of the arrears dragged behind even as the minister of finance promised the payment would be made in tranches.“I cannot tell you that everything will be paid at once, but I can assure you that you will be paid when we agree on a realistic schedule,” the minister reportedly said.“It is surprising that the finance minister said that she cannot pay us at once, but in phases. What stops her from paying while the economy and crude oil price were stable? Is the minister not receiving her entitlements of office?” Abdulmalik asked again.He concluded that the minister felt that military pensioners would be rich if they were paid once, but had forgotten that “we sacrificed our lives for the country.”Meanwhile, this week, the chairman, Military Pensions Board, Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Rabiu Dabo, disclosed to journalists in Abuja that the federal government has commenced the payment of the 33 percent increment in phases.He revealed that the one-year arrears would be spread over four quarters for 2015, while the remaining two years’ arrears would be carried over to next year.The revelation that the first quarter arrears for 2015 have been paid to the retirees since February this year, while the next quarter will be paid subsequently in the year once the funds are released could be good news to the pensioners.He added that military pensioners have already started enjoying the 33 per cent increase in their take home, since 2013, but it was the arrears that had been dragging, the payment of which the government has now spread into three years.Justifying the payment of only 33 percent, Air Vice Marshal Dabo said, “the National Salaries and Income and Wages Commission, in late 2014, released a circular in which it was clarified that the arrears due to pensioners is only 33 per cent, due to the huge financial outlay of the arrears and in the face of scarce resources.”While the agitation for full implementation of the 53 percent increment that was approved continues, one issue that has also been of concern to military pensioners is the harmonisation of entitlements to eliminate disparity among pensioners.It could be recalled that the minister of finance had in the past set up a working group to address the issue and the chairman of the Military Pension Board has also announced that government is already working on the harmonisation in line with the aspirations of pensioners who retired a long time ago.To address the issue, the board intends to carry out a verification exercise update and sanitise the database of military pensioners as part of the harmonisation process.
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