By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA — THE Senate, yesterday, said that if the military pension board must perform effectively, its budgetary allocation must be improved upon, just as it expressed dissatisfaction with the allocation of N199.343 million in the 2013 budget for the board.
This came as Chairman, Military Pension Board, Rear Admiral Bala Mohammed, told the Senate while defending the 2013 budget before the Senate Committee on Establishment that N90 billion was needed in 2013 to enable the board address its needs, adding that these include payment of pensions, settlement of pension arrears in the on-going year as well as recurrent expenditure.
The Senate, however, promised that it would ensure that the board’s budget was increased to give pensioners a befitting life.
Speaking, yesterday during the budget defence, Chairman, Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Services, Senator Aloysius Etok, PDP, Akwa Ibom North-West, however, described the budget as grossly inadequate, adding that the committee will assist the board to obtain N10 billion against N15 billion being sought for the construction of its permanent office.
Also, yesterday, at the budget defence before the Senator Barnabas Gemade-led Committee on National Planning, Deputy Chairman/Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman urged the Senate to make it mandatory for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to submit their audit report as at when due especially when the Senators go out on oversight functions.
He also told the Senators that the Score Card agreement signed by the Ministers with President Goodluck Jonathan should be used in assessing budget performance of the Ministers and heads of parastatals, just as he disclosed that the vision 2020 document was ready, but lack of funds was the reason why the documents have not been printed.
Speaking further, Senator Etok noted that the board needs to be relocated as soon as possible to its new office complex in a barrack that provides a conducive military environment for the pensioners, however regretted that only forty seven percent the capital vote for the 2012 budget was implemented against the eighty percent of recurrent expenditure while the fifty three percent increment on pension has also not been paid.
The Senator who warned that government must take the case of military pensioners very seriously especially against the backdrop of the present security situation, however stressed that those who are experts in the handling of arms and ammunition should not be allowed to resort to the use of weapons as means of livelihood.
According to him, “I once had that experience in the hand of armed robbers who told me they are ex-service men.
The way they handle the guns showed that they are professionals. So in my own opinion, it will augur well for the country to allowed our retired servicemen to resort to such kind of thing because they have no other source of income.”
He said any retiree who falls sick while appearing before the board for clearance or whatever was a responsibility of the board and they may not be able to do this if the facility was not provided.
Adding, “During the pension probe I have had a cause to pay the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand naira for the treatment of a pensioner who appeared before us to present a position paper.
We saw it as our responsibility because he was our guest and we pay the money so the same applied to the board too.”