By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Monsuru Olowoopejo

ON Monday, the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, began the first phase of the verification exercise of NITEL/MTEL Pensioners under the Defined Benefit Scheme, DBS, nationwide at    eight centres between January 15 and 27, 2018. The second phase is scheduled to hold between February 5 and 13, 2018.

The first phase is taking place for 12 days between January 15 and 27, at two centres in Lagos;  between February 15 and 23 (eight days) at a centre in Enugu and between February 15 and 20 (six days ), at a centre in Port Harcourt.

For the second phase, it will hold for eight days (February 5- 13) at the Kano Centre; for four days (February 5 – 8), at Gombe Centre, and for eight days (February 5 -13), at Abuja Centre.

At the Lagos centres hosting pensioners from South-West, the defunct national carrier staff were confronted with shoddy arrangements and tortuous process.

For those coming from outside Lagos, it was  not only frustrating, but also dehumanizing.

The pensioners under the Nigerian Telecommunication, NITEL/MTEL, have raised concerns over strategy adopted by the Federal Government in the ongoing verification exercise.

Monday, January 15, when    Vanguard’s Pension and You visited one of the centres at Alausa, Ikeja, hundreds of pensioners, mostly non-Lagos residents, were sighted under the scorching sun, queuing to obtain their tally numbers.

They lamented that the strategy adopted by PTAD was very unfriendly to those resident outside the state of the verification exercise considering their ages among other challenges.

After waiting to receive the tally numbers, the officials of PTAD told the pensioners to return on Wednesday (today) when the tally numbers would be relevant, informing the pensioners that about 600 pensioners could be attended to daily, urging them to adhere strictly to the tally numbers in their possession.

It was gathered that about the 600 pensioners issued with tally numbers, arrived at the venue before 6am.

After being captured at about 11 am, one of the pensioners, Mr. Nasrudeen Adeola, disclosed that he arrived the venue at about 5 am to avoid the rowdiness that could occur.

He said: “Though the exercise is seamless but gaining access is the difficult task because of the huge population. I will not blame the officials rather I will continue to fault the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for refusing to pay our entitlement.

Chief Joseph Falope, a pensioner, who travelled from Ife, Osun State, lamented that he was not aware that the exercise would be tedious, saying, “I have been asked to come on Wednesday.”

Falope, who left home at about 4am, lamented that he had nowhere to lay his head at night because he did not prepare to spend more days in Lagos.

According to him: “I was happy when I learned about it. This is because our 10 years of waiting is about to end. And that is why I left my home in Ife, Osun State with all documents hoping to leave after the exercise. But I was shocked when I was told that I could not be captured today. I will have to wait for Wednesday. I would have wished to conclude the exercise today. Nonetheless, I will wait till Wednesday to ensure that I conclude the exercise.

Another pensioner, Moses Dare, who left Oyo State for Lagos, contended that there were better strategies than the one adopted.

According to him, “there is no need to ask everyone to gather in Lagos for the exercise. Additional centres could be created in other states to reduce the burden of coming to Lagos.”

Dare lamented that many pensioners had returned to their home states after retirement to avoid the hustling and bustling in Lagos State, but to bring them back to Lagos where they did not have accommodation among others, was everything but humane.

Meanwhile, an official of PTAD who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed PTAD resorted to the present strategy “to prevent all of them from coming daily without being captured. We have decided to issue them numbers and the date they should come for us to attend to them. With this, we will be able to prevent the stress of coming daily.”

Recall that ahead of the exercise by PTAD, Association of former Telecomms Employees of Nigeria, ATEN, directed its members from Nitel and Mtel not to participate, claiming it contravened the 20 years pension buy out awarded to them in 2014.

ATEN advised them not to participate in the verification exercise arguing that it would put them on monthly pension as against the 20 years pension buy out awarded to them in 2014.

Speaking through its President, Mr. Oluti Gabriel, in a statement, the group condemned the Federal government for subjecting members to hardship and suffering by the use of PTAD for the payment of their benefits as against the 20 years pension buy out awarded by the liquidation Court in 2014.

Oluti said,” We are awaiting Ecowas Court Judgment on the action of Federal Government especially as it concerns PTAD. The approval given by Federal Government for payment which PTAD is currently handling, was on court judgment paper with the supporting documents from the liquidation Court and the failure of the Federal Govt to instruct PTAD to allow the rule of law to take its course in this matter. The Association’s decision for all parties to await the Ecowas Court Judgment on the action of Federal    is to maintain the integrity of ATEN as an Association that will not betray the confidence of its members by capitulating to support illegality”.

Former workers of Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) and its mobile arm, the mobile telecommunication Limited (Mtel) under the aegis of Association of Former Telecoms Employees of Nigeria (ATEN) had approached the ECOWAS court of Justice in suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/32/17 for an order of mandamus against the federal government and its concerned agencies.

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