By Victor Ahiuma-Young
FEW days after Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, gave insight why former staff of the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line, NNSL, have not been paid their benefits, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, has pleaded with PTAD and other agencies responsible for the payment of the entitlements of the ex-workers to speed up the process of payment, to end the premature deaths and sufferings ravaging the senior citizens.
President-General of MWUN, Adewale Adeyanju, while declaring open the National Executive Council, NEC, of Shipping Branch of the union in Lagos, said the union would continue to put pressure on the government and its agency to ensure that the former workers get their due.
According to him: “Every day we hear sad stories of the sufferings these senior citizens who laboured for the country are going through. They are actually going through pains. In fact, we hear of premature deaths every now and then.
This must stop. We are calling on PTAD and others government agencies responsible for the payment of their benefits to end these deaths, sufferings and pains our former colleagues are going through. We have sent a petition to the federal government through the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The other day, PTAD was giving reasons for the delay. This cannot continue. They must be paid for them to enjoy their sweat now that many of them are still alive.”
PTAD had through its Executive Secretary, Sharon Ikeazor, said the delay in computing the pension of the NNSL ex-workers was due to non verification of the salary structure of the defunct national carrier months after it got presidential approval to enroll them.
According to her, “In the case of NNSL, the approval for enrolment was received in April 2018, several months after the first set of agencies was approved. The Directorate’s pre-verification exercise for pensioners is a long and painstaking inter-ministerial process that requires the collection of data and digitisation of documents.
“Most significantly, it requires getting the authentic salary structure of the agency concerned, which in the case of NNSL was not an easy feat. When PTAD eventually got a response in that regard from the Federal Ministry of Transport, representatives of the Union, whom the Directorate had been actively engaging with all along, declared the document incomplete, saying that it did not include the salary structure of its seamen, though PTAD is yet to receive any formal information from Federal Ministry of Transport regarding that allusion.”
PTAD’s clarification followed the protest by the ex-workers in Lagos to plead with the PTAD, to pay the N3 billion arrears owed its members since 2008, insisting that payment of the money would save them from untimely death and also enable them attend to the needs especially medical.
Speaking, President of Pension Welfare Association of NNSL, Mr. Patrick Azu, demanded for the payment of their pension arrears and reinstatement of members in the Federal Government Pension Payroll.
According to him, its members had not received any payment after the payment of five years arrears in 2008, saying “Out of about 1000 that were abruptly retired at the defunct Nigerian National Shipping Line Ltd. (NNSL), only 800 of us are still alive. Some of our members died just because they did not have money to go for basic medical checkup at the hospitals. Some cannot even attend this meeting due to financial and health challenges.
”We have made several trips to Abuja, tasking our members out of nothing, to submit all our members’ files to PTAD. We just want PTAD to come for the verification of our members. Once the verification is done, we will be hopeful that within two weeks, we will be paid the arrears.”
Azu contended that the appeal became necessary to let Nigerians know that “our members are dying and incapacitated daily due to hardship and no money.”
He said some of the members were young when they were retired abruptly and that holding on to what was due to them up to this moment amounted to injustice.
One of the members, 84-year-old Alhaji Shita Sanni, said it was only God that had kept him all these years without money to look after himself, lamenting ”I cannot describe how l feel about the non-payment of our pension arrears.”