12 March 2014, Abuja – About 20, 000 electricity sector pensioners of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) have given the Federal Government up till midnight today to pay their N16 billion outstanding pension arrears, gratuities, death benefits, among others.
The pensioners under the umbrella- body of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), electricity sector, also want the government, through the Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Limited (NELMCO), to pay the monthly pensions of their members for January and last month.
They warned that the failure to pay the outstanding areas would result in a protest.
President, NUP, Comrade Temple Ubani, said they were aware that the government had paid for the same period, other pensioners through the Pension Transitional Administration Department (PTAD).
He said they were informed by NELMCO that NEPA/PHCN Pension Fund is classified as Capital Budget and domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, where it is released quarterly to make for the monthly payment of pensioners. They criticised the arrangement as cumbersome and unwieldy.
He noted that it is common knowledge that salaries and pensions are overhead expenses normally classified as recurrent budget and released monthly as first-line charge.
“We have repeatedly experienced delays in payments during the first month of each quarter of the year as a result of the uncooperative attitude between the Ministry of Finance, the Budget Office and the Accountant-General’s Office, thereby making payment of our stipends very rigorous and tasking for NELMCO, every month.
“Our union and NELMCO management have sought the intervention of relevant authorities, including the presidency and the National Assembly to redress these anomalies to no avail.
“It is also on record that many NEPA/PHCN retirees have not been paid their outstanding terminal benefits.These include gratuities, arrears of pensions, death benefits to the next of kin of deceased workers and retirees and monetisation arrears. Others are harmonisation entitlements, electricity rebate benefits, spanning over several years, and different forms of verification exercises conducted by different Federal Government agencies.
“In 2013 the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo informed the whole world that government had set aside over N16billion for the settlement of these liabilities. Unfortunately all targeted payment dates did not materialise and some beneficiaries have since died without getting their benefits,” he said.
Ubani pointed out that they have taken notice of the concerned intervention of some critical stakeholders, like the Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Senator Phillip Aduda and the Director-General of PTAD, Ms. Nellie Mayshak, who have pleaded through the Managing Director of NELMCO, Dr. Samuel Agbogun, to give them some time.
He said it is expected that their intervention shall facilitate the payment of their January and February Pensions by that date, and address other outstanding and residual matters.
“Nonetheless, this memo shall serve as due notice to Government and NEPA/PHCN retirees, that in the event that arrears of pensions are not paid by 12 midnight on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, Government should hold its relevant agencies responsible for whatever reactions the pensioners, the widows and orphans of deceased power sector workers may decide to embark on,” he said.
– The Nation