The desire of every retiree is to enjoy his retirement, sadly it has continued to remain a mirage for many pensioners, TARKAA DAVID writes
While pension remains the ultimate dream of every active worker, the road to it has continued to be surrounded by harrowing tales and gory mental pictures.
The Military Pensions Board which caters for the welfare of veterans is not immune from these harrowing tales.
Hitherto, postings to the military pensions board were considered very juicy followed by congratulatory messages due to ill accrued benefits at the detriment of retirees.
Like every other pension administration in Nigeria, of course, there are challenges, the condition of the Military Pensions Board was at some point very pathetic.
The premises used to be filled with old retirees waiting in queues sleeping on bare floor waiting to process entitlements but that has changed with the introduction of certain innovations.
The pensioners’ verification which occurs every two years has its own challenges as many have to travel from far to the various centers for manual verification which qualifies them to continue receiving their pension allowance.
As part of efforts to address these challenges, the Military Pension Board has announced plans to transmute from the manual verification of pensioners to electronic verification to curb the menace of fraud and administrative bottleneck associated with pension administration.
The chairman of the Board, Commodore SA Lawal, who disclosed this during the commissioning of projects at the Board’s Headquarters, said the exercise will commence in earnest after obtaining approval from appropriate superior authorities.
With the new policy scheduled to commence by the end of the year, Military pensioners will no more undergo manual verification as was obtained in the past.
He said “the Board has concluded plans to transmute from the hitherto manual verification of all military pensioners to a more secured and user-friendly electronic verification. Hopefully, before the end of this year, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Electronic Verification Exercise of military pensioners would commence after obtaining approval from appropriate superior authorities”.
He further disclosed that there has been significant improvement in the management of military pensions since he assumed office.
He added, “it is on record that since I assumed duty in September last year, our esteemed pensioners have received their monthly pensions before the end of each month.
“Similarly, gratuities of all retirees who retire from Service as at July 2021 and whose retirement documents have been received at the Board have been paid. We have also ensured payments of death benefits to Next of Kin (NOKs) of deceased personnel who have been recommended by the Services and cleared as genuine NOK by the MPB NOK Committee. In addition, I am happy to inform you that all retirees are presently being paid in accordance with the new pension chart as approved by the Federal Government”.
Emphasizing the projects, Lawal, explained that, “on my assumption of office in September last year, I found out that, a greater number of MPB personnel reside in rented apartments. The rental expenses incurred by the Board on a yearly basis runs into several millions of naira and currently consume a larger percentage of the Board’s Overhead budget.
“This trend is unsustainable. Hence, my quest to build additional accommodation blocks for officers and Non-Commissioned Officers of the Board. Today, we are going to witness the commissioning of 2 blocks of 8 x one Bedroom transit apartments for officers and 5 blocks of 16 x One self-contained room for non-commissioned officers. May I seize this opportunity to inform this gathering that construction of some of these accommodation blocks were initiated by previous administrations at the MPB”.
In his remarks, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Zubairu Gambo who was the Special Guest of Honour endorsed the plan to transmute to electronic verification for pensioners, noting that it will eliminate the menace of pensioners.
According to him, “permit me to state that the plan by the MPB to embark on an electronic verification of military pensioners to replace the manual system is a laudable initiative. It is envisaged that the Electronic Verification of military pensioners would resolve the challenges experienced in the existing manual system.
“Specifically, it would lead to substantial financial savings to the Federal Government of Nigeria through progressive elimination of ghost or deceased pensioners while also eliminating the stress the senior citizens endure during manual verification exercises. The Chairman, You have our full support on this new initiative”.
“I must therefore applaud the leadership of the Military Pensions Board for the prudent utilisation of limited resources for the improvement of the welfare of personnel, civilian staff, esteemed retirees, and Next of Kin of our deceased personnel.
“This development aligns with the vision of the NN under my watch and I am elated to be part of this landmark event. Notably, this huge investment in infrastructure upgrades at the Board is unprecedented since its relocation to this present location. This feat no doubt deserves some commendation considering the dwindling national resources amidst other competing demands coupled with global economic downturn arising from the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Though a welcome development, Nigerians only hope its intended benefits will help ameliorate the suffering of senior citizens and ensure efficient pension management.
On his part the Secretary General Veterans Federation of Nigeria (VFN) Dr Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu welcomed the idea but expressed fear for the board’s capacity to handle run the system.
He said though it will make the verification process less cumbersome,it’s effectiveness calls for worry following the nation’s level of technology advancement” if Cyber criminals get hold of it then too bad
I don’t know how prepared is the board against such situations.How protective is the system or system managers against hacker’s or hacking the platform
Because we have seen where high level security system were hacked not to talk of local system Cyber operator’s”.
He said lamented that the board took the decision without consultation with stakeholders. “Also the board ought to have consulted stakehold ers and discuss the nitty gritty of the project giving room for suggestions, criticism before implementation.
He added “Military retires documents is a classified security documents that cannot be treated like any other documents. The Board is dealing with senior citizens life and welfare hence it must be treated with respect and caution, there should also be consultation with retirees in every sinlgle steps taken or to be taken in the name of welfare, well being and their security,”