By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja
Retired pensioners in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, under the auspices of FCDA/FCTA Pensioners Multipurpose Cooperative Society have called for intervention from President Mohammadu Buhari to compel the FCT Minister, Malam Mohammad Musa Bello to urgently pay 25 percent Gratuity which was withheld since 2006.
The pensioners, in a letter to President Buhari, jointly signed by Mr. Chukwuloa Austine chairman, and Mr. Paulinus Bassey vice chairman, explained that in 2006 the federal government with the assistance of the United Nations/World Bank concluded that the Nigeria Civil Service was over bloated hence the need for downsizing exercise.
They said that at that time all the affected staff in the Federal Ministries through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation were paid 100 percent of their gratuities which was 75 percent counterpart funding from the World Bank and 25 percent from the Federal Government.
“But the FCTA under the Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, the then Minister of FCT decided to do the payments themselves through the consultants in negation to the civil service norm which resulted in the gross underpayments of our benefits as against what our colleagues in the Federal Ministries were paid.
“Despite the underpayments, at the various forms of payments, it was announced that 75 percent of our gratuity was being paid, while the balance of 25percent will be refunded later when the loans and advances supposedly taken by some of us would have been sorted out”, they added.
The pensioners further explained that reference, paragraph two of their retirement letter stated that, their retirement takes effect from October 1, 2006, and that their entitlement will be paid to them by the terms and condition of service less any indebtedness.
“Evidently, after 15 years and still counting, the FCTA has deliberately refused and or neglected to pay the balance or withheld 25 percent to us despite our repeated demands. Most shockingly is the fact that the relatives and cronies of those in the position of authority then had since been paid and leaving us because we have no connection,” they said.
The pensioners also said that the deductions made from their salaries under the contributory pension scheme from 2004 to 2006 before their disengagement from service were not remitted to the Pension Funds Administrators.
“This no doubt has led to some of us losing a huge sum of money which ought to have accrued to us as investors and, return on investment. All repeated demands made by us have yielded no result or better still fallen on deaf ears. As we write this appeal to you, our retirement savings accounts, and RSAs are still reading zero.
“Very sadly and regrettably, some of us who are well over 60 years of age who applied for the recovery of our National Housing Funds were denied payments by the Federal Mortgage Bank, the reason being that FCDA/FCTA did not remit the deductions made from our salaries while in office, thus compounding our present plights.
“We had published our complaints in a daily newspaper on October 15, 2018, to the current Minister of FCT, Mallam Mohammad Musa Bello, and to the Minister of State, FCT to help us out as a woman, still no positive response and we had also written to the current FCT Permanent Secretary, Mr. Olusade Adesola to no avail,” they said.
The pensioners further said that In 2004, 135 FCDA staff were retired unjustly making 75 of them who went to seek redress in court and their prayers were granted and their entitlements paid in full, while the 60 of them who did not go to court are yet to be paid their full entitlements till date.
“Mr. President sir, for your information, the arrears of the consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage have yet to be paid. The pensioners of the federal ministries had all received their arrears since last year and here we are still waiting.
“Our prayer: sir, we are hereby begging and appealing to you as a President that has zero tolerance for corruption and a crusader for justice and fairness, to use your good office to ‘Save Our Souls’ by compelling the FCT Minister, Malam Mohammad Musa Bello to urgently settle all our outstanding benefits as enumerated above,” the pensioners said.