By News Express on 05/11/2014
A working group made up of a high-level team from the Federal Ministry of Finance and representatives of military pensioners has been set up to harmonise positions on pension arrears and address other issues around the payment of pensions to retired military personnel in the country.
This was the key outcome of a meeting between a high-level team from the ministry led by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and military pensioners who had gathered at the ministry earlier today in protest against delays in the payment of their pension arrears.
The pensioners acknowledged that they have been receiving a 33% increase on their pensions since August 2013 but demanded that the increase should be 53% to put them at par with their colleagues who are in active service.
The group will be chaired by the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Bright Okogu. The membership will include the Chairman, Military Pension Board, representatives of the military pensioners, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission as well as staff of the Federal Military of Finance.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had delayed her attendance at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting to engage the pensioners in an honest and robust session in which both sides freely spoke their minds. The government team which engaged the pensioners included the Permanent Secretary of the Finance Ministry, the DG Budget and the Chair of the Military Pensions Board.
Explaining the genesis of the problem, Okonjo-Iweala told the pensioners that the 53% increase in public sector wages which was implemented in 2010 left government with a very high recurrent budget which poses a significant funding challenge.
She said that even though she was not in office when the hike was implemented, government is a continuum and the ministry under her watch, with the strong support of President Goodluck Jonathan, has been working hard to address the challenges because soldiers who put their lives on the line to serve the nation deserve the greatest honour and consideration.
Okonjo-Iweala explained that it was because of this that the federal government has implemented a 33% increase in military pensions alone since August 2013 following a recommendation of a government committee.
On the pension arrears, the minister stressed that government was committed to paying but that, given the realities, this had to be done on an agreed schedule 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 said.
The minister’s proposal for the establishment of the working group to discuss and agree on the level of the arrears as well as the schedule of payment was accepted by the pensioners who nominated representatives to join the group.
The representatives of the military pensioners who had spoken passionately about the challenges they are facing because of delayed pension payments later thanked the minister for giving them accurate information and giving them a listening ear.
•Photo shows chairman of the working group on military pensions, Dr. Bright Okogu.
Source News Express
Posted 05/11/2014 2:34:58 PM
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