‘We are suffering with our families’
Retired policemen in Cross River groan over non-payment of pension and gratuity
LOOKING frail and hungry, Udo Akpan, a 69-year- old retired Deputy Superintendent of Police and his colleagues sauntered into the small hall to pour out their frustrations.
Apparently the once-agile and brave retired police officer, who left service in 2006 with five children, was tired and frustrated of life. He looks many years older than his age.
His case is pathetic and probably it is the same story all over the country for some retired policemen as he said, “many of us have died and the big men are enjoying. President Muhammadu Buhari should please look into our matter. There must be a change. I believe somebody somewhere is frustrating us. My question is why is it that since I retired, no gratuity no pension, how does the federal government want me to look after my children, how do I live to continue to take care of my family?”
Akpan’s tired legs could hardly carry him as he sat down to speak on behalf of many of his colleagues suffering the same challenge. “I retired in 2006 as DSP. I have suffered a stroke and by the grace of God I survived”, Akpan said as he narrated their sad story.
“Since I retired in 2006, no gratuity no pension. All my children are grounded. The one that graduated from the University of Calabar, he cannot collect the certificate because of unpaid fees. Another one has finished Polytechnic education and the others in secondary school have dropped out. As I am talking now, since morning, I have not tasted even water.”
Akpan who hails from Ikonno Local Council of Akwa Ibom State, said: “Now I am just squatting in a small place by the staircase in the police quarters at Otop Abasi because I have no place to go to. My wife and all my children are squatting there with me.”
Ironically, Akpan has been verified many times yet with no result and “the Police after the last verification, said that would be the last but up till now we have not seen them. They came from Abuja under the name of Presidential Taskforce on Verification and Payment of Retired Policemen. Now they are asking us to go and do bank verification otherwise we will not be paid, I have done that and there has been no payment” he complained.
He further revealed: “We are about 30 in number. When I went for verification that day, I was thinking that I was the only one in this condition, but was shocked to see many of my retired colleagues suffering to do verification that never ends and payment that will not follow. That day we were about 30 that did the verification at the Police Officers Mess along Moore road, Calabar. I have gone to Abuja many times and come back, nothing.”
Inspector Bassey Ejom, AP Number 67815, who also retired in 2006 after serving last at the Divisional Police Headquarters in Aboh, Delta State also said: “We have gone to Lagos and Abuja several times, yet nothing has happened. They have come for verification and we keep waiting and waiting.”
In his 34th year of service, Ejom, who survived robbery attacks twice and had to retire to take care of his six children, now drives a bus with a loan he got from his sister to take care of his family.
He said: “Up till now I couldn’t pay back the loan and my sister got sick and died. Police kept on telling us they are coming. January this year they came for verification and said this is the final verification before we get our money but nothing has happened so far. One officer in Ekori, Yakurr Local Council, DSP James Iyamba, who last served in Asokoro Division, Asaba in Delta State retired in 2006, had stroke and died in 2013 and could not enjoy his retirement benefit as he wished.”
Yet another retiree, Sgt. Ajah Ekpang, F/No: 88750, who retired February 1, 2006 broke down in tears as he tried to speak. “My condition is bad, I cannot talk. My tears are enough to tell the story. We are suffering as you can see”, he lamented.
Commenting on the condition of the unpaid retired officers, the Chairman, Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria (ARPON) in the state, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Bassey Inyang (Rtd) confirmed that some retirees have not been paid.
“You know as it is now we have the old pension scheme before the new pension scheme came by virtue of pension Act 2004 and it took effect in 2007. Myself and others belong to PENCOMs. But the bulk of the people belong to the old scheme called PETAD (Pension Transition Administration Department)”, he said.
“I am aware that Federal Government sent the PETAD people here for verification before the elections because they do verification from time to time in the old scheme. In the new scheme we do not do verification because we have pension fund administrators that manage our pension, so we have direct contact with them.”
Explaining that many of the have not been paid because federal government has not released money, he said, “when money is appropriated the presidential taskforce will now pay them.”
On the other hand, Inyang said, “some of them may not have gotten their papers complete. Before they pay anybody, they have to come for assessment and you have to bring your letter of appointment, letter of retirement, salary slip and others, then they compute it together and give you Federal Government Bond before they proceed to pay. I am aware that there may be reasons why they were not paid when their mates were paid and it lingered on.”