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Old soldiers at war over unpaid 20-month pension arrears

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***As VP, others disown president of ex-servicemen welfare association

By Kingsley Omonobi

A few days ago, the President of military veterans of the Association of Ex-Service Men and Family Welfare, MWO, Anthony Agbas, led some aggrieved members to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja, to protest non-payment of their 20-month pension arrears.

The protesters who appealed to the Federal Government to approve the payment of minimum wage arrears accruing to them from 2019 till date, demanded end to all deductions on the pension of all retired medical officers, and inclusion of officers who fought during the civil war into the military pension scheme.

While delivering a protest letter to officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Agbas lamented that over 97, 000 retired soldiers who were supposed to benefit from what he described as the Security Department Allowance, SDA, had been excluded.

He contended that only retirees from 2017 to date had been paid, leaving the majority of the ex-service men.

Discondant tunes

However, the story has taken a new twist as the Vice-President of the Association and Chairman of Bwari Chapter, retired Master Warrant Officer Samuel Unubi and the Secretary, retired Sergeant Thaddaeus Gershom, have disowned the President of MWO, describing the protest led by Agbas as uncalled for, self-serving among others, claiming that issues of the minimum wage, arrears of pension and debarment allowances, were being attended to by the Military Pensions Board, MPB.

According to him, “I see no reason why they should come out again to stage the protest because those who led the protest were equally in the meeting with MPB.

“That is why we are saying no, we are not part and we don’t want such a thing to continue. It will not go well and will also give a bad name to military retirees.

“This is our nation and our President is equally a retired military personnel. It is in a way disappointing to him and causing a disgrace to the nation.

“Our pension is not delayed but what is due for us is what we are talking about. If it comes or if did not come, let it be handled speedily without delay. This is what is grieving many of us (retirees).”

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Also speaking, the Secretary of the Association, Sgt. Garshom, said “He (the President) called me to tell me about organising a protest. I told him no, you can’t do things like that. But they still went ahead to protest.

“I don’t see the need for the protest. Twice MPB had called him to a meeting and told him everything happening at the last meeting.

“He was there on December 11, 2020, when MPB invited all the associations, and we agreed that protest is never the solution to our problems and that everything should be brought to the round table for discussion and dialogue.

“So why protesting? It is meaningless to me and I cannot be part of it.”

Outburst

Recall that while speaking during the protest, Agbas had said among others, “We are supposed to be paid the Security Department Allowance so that we don’t use the skill we have acquired against the state.

“All retired soldiers are trained on how to use weapons.  So we are supposed to be paid that allowance so that we don’t use that skill against the state.

“Unfortunately, they paid only those who were discharged from 2017 to date. We have over 97,000 retired soldiers.

“Those that were paid are very few,  that is why we are appealing to Mr President to use his good offices to pay all retired soldiers their allowances.

“We fought to unite this country. We spent our youthful years to fight the Nigerian civil war to unite this country to remain one and an indivisible country.

“Sadly, some of us are receiving N10,000 as pensions and were told they were overpaid since the last 40 years.

“We also appeal to the president to approve the inclusion of retired officers and soldiers, who fought during the Nigerian Civil War but not on pension, but you asked Military Pension Board (MPB) to verify them in October 2015, [in the pension scheme].”

“These retired officers and soldiers are suffering. Some of the placards read: “Pay us our adjusted salary arrears of minimum wage approved since May 2019; Veterans are dying.”

MPB briefing

It was gathered that the Military Pensions Board had earlier given a brief to Ex-Soldiers and veterans on the visit to the National Wages and Salaries Commission over the issues of debarment allowance, salary increment allowance,

The brief signed by Flt Lt O Lawal, Public Relations Officer on behalf of Chairman MPB said, “The Chairman Military Pensions Board (MPB), Commodore SA Lawal, on Tuesday, 15 Dec 20, visited the Acting Chairman of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) in his office in Abuja to solicit for the speed-up of the process for the issuance of a new payment chart for military retirees incorporating the minimum wage policy of the government.

The two agencies, therefore, had an extensive discussion on the matter.

The Acting Chairman of the NSIWC, Mr Ekpo Nta, explained that the Commission has taken necessary steps with regard to the proposals for implementation of the minimum wage for pensioners but the Commission is yet to get the necessary feedback from the government.

However as a result of the visit and request of the Chairman MPB, the Acting Chairman of NSIWC promised to intensify efforts at getting necessary approvals from relevant stakeholders so that the Commission can promulgate and release appropriate Circulars for the implementation of the new minimum wage for pensioners generally.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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