By: Olajide Toriola
As the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), is proposing a programme that will capture Nigerian pensioners who had served their country diligently, Nigerians in the Diaspora have a course to smile as their verification is to start soon.
This cheering news was announced by the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor when she paid a courtesy call on Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora in Abuja.
Ikeazor said she was in the SSA’s office to see how they can work together to flag off the pension scheme for the Nigerians in the Diaspora who had served the country before travelling abroad.
“They are our heroes and heroines who had worked for this country since independence and there is need to capture them in our pension scheme through verification and updating our data base” she said.
She explained that the Diaspora pensioners are Nigerians who had worked in the country and due for pension but did not collect their pension before going to abroad.
“My coming is to see how we can partner with the office of SSA to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora to enable us capture pensioners in the Diaspora so that we can have their accurate data base.
“Verification of our pensioners is to ensure that every pensioner is captured. You know that we have a lot of pensioners in the Diaspora.
“Am hoping that we can partner together to get all the information data on our Diaspora.
“We want to set up a portal that will enable them to key in to the scheme and enhance their verification process without necessarily coming into the country,” she said.
The PTAD boss said the agency would get the nominal roll of pensioners from the state government through which it can ascertain the state and the Federal share.
She said the directorate had suspended 15, 600 pensioners from its payroll due to lack of Bank Verification Number (BVN).
Ikeazor said the measure was part of the agency’s commitment to getting authentic database of pensioners and streamlining its payroll.
“So far, we have dropped about 15,600 pensioners off our pay roll that have no BVN. So we just flag their account so that money does not go in there.
“We have told the genuine ones to update their BVN so that we can put them back on our payroll. We have saved the government millions of naira through the exercise.
“This action was in collaboration with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and commercial banks to obtain current status of bank account being used by pensioners to receive their pension payment,” she
She explained that BVN was mandatory for the operation of a bank account, adding that pension payment to the accounts would remain suspended until the affected pensioners update the status of their bank accounts and submit it to PTAD along with other documents.
Ikeazor added that the aim of the directorate was to go round Nigeria to ensure that every pensioner is verified, as “our anthem says the labour of our heroes past shall not be in vain”.
“Pensioners who have used all their lives to serve the nation supposed to get their pension. As we are verifying, we are also saving the government a lot of money.
“Because we can give the government accurate data of pensioners so that government can know its liabilities, she said.
Ikeazor said the pension administration she inherited did not have accurate data base for the pensioners and that the directorate had started nationwide verification exercise to correct this.
According to her, the agency had in last year carried out verification exercise in some states in the North East which includes Yola, Adamawa, Gombe, Taraba and Bauchi.
“Now we are going to start in Maiduguri and Yobe as well because we want to key in to the development agenda of the government for the North East,” she said.
Ikeazor said that the agency had this year started the verification exercise with South-South with Port Harcourt and Bayelsa centres which will move on to Edo and other centres soon.
Responding, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa commended PTAD boss for the unique efforts in capturing the Diaspora pensioners, as it has never happened before.
“This is unique in the history of Nigeria as nobody has deemed it fit to capture the data of Nigeria pensioners in the Diaspora,” she said.
The presidential aide explained that the measure would save the Nigerians abroad the trouble of coming and going back for the collection of pension.
“The introduction of the scheme is an interesting news to the Diaspora and we will work with our pensioners in the Diaspora because they deserve to receive their pension after meritorious serve to the country.
“Am sure this will go a long way to show that this administration cares for all Nigerians either at home or in the Diaspora.
“We will look forward to capturing every Nigerian in Diaspora who had served the country,” Dabiri-Erewa said.