Mrs. Bola Onafowokan retired in 2002 as a nurse from LUTH. She went to the office of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners to seek assistant for her pension. During an interview with her at NUP office, Bola narrated her experience at the last verification exercise that took place in Lagos to Stockswatch. Excerpts:
What is your name and when did you retire?
My name is Mrs. Bola Onafowokan and I retired in 2002 as a nurse at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). I’m here at Nigeria Union of Pensioners’ Lagos to follow-up on my efforts to get my pension paid.
What have you doing to get your pension?
I have been doing all that I need to do. I went for the last verification of pensioners that was held in Lagos. While there, I met members of the NUP at the verification and they promised that they can help with the follow-ups after the verification, and that is why I’m here today to see them.
Madam, what was your experience like at the verification ground
It was traumatic for thousands of aged pensioners in Lagos states civil services as they gathered for another verification exercise to ascertain their eligibility for pension under Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD.
Although officials of PTAD were gentle and kind with the old men and women who had used their productive years to serve their fatherland, most of them were looking frail and sickly. So, to some of them, they see the exercise as a way to further compound their problems.
A good number of us had one health challenge or the other. But reliable children of some of the retirees carried them in their arms to the venue. Most of us had developed apathy towards the whole process as we complained bitterly that since 2009 when we retired, the Federal Government is yet to pay our entitlements.
Were it not for the kindness shown us, by our wards, many of us would have died many years ago. I can remember about 13,000 retirees from Lagos participated in the six-day verification exercise. This was disclosed to us by the Director, Pension Support Service, PTD, Abuja at the Lagos venue of the verification.
There were about five centres where this verification exercise took place. I think the aim of the exercise was to verify eligible pensioners. They want to ensure that they digitalize us, get all our data and necessary documents; the wanted to ensure that we are eligible for pension under PTAD.
The exercise was to ensure that pensioners get their pension on monthly basis. If we have arrears, they pay us after this computation.
There were several pensioners rushing for the verification on the first day and officials of PTAD were able to bring the situation under control. When we came on the first day, there were so many other pensioners and that’s always what happens when we have verification exercise. Many of the pensioners were not aware that the exercise would still extend to the next five days.
Did PTAD show consideration for physically challenged pensioners?
The challenges they had was crowd control and they were able to manage it. PTAD took care of physically challenged retirees. I think they have a dedicated section called the mobile verification team.
It was difficult for me. At 73, it is not easy being tossed to and fro in the name of verification. As I am, I haven’t been paid since 2009. There’s nothing I can do than just to continue praying to my God to bless my children so that they can have enough to provide for me.
Really, I didn’t want to come, it was my children that encouraged me. If it had taken too long for me, I would have gone back home. I’m already having some pains. It is my experience as a nurse that helped me. I didn’t eat anything so that I don’t have to be visiting rest room.
As good as the exercise was, I saw it as a mere wasting of time. Though, the exercise is good but, it seems to me that government is just wasting our time. We were there for two days. When we came back the following morning, they said we should pick number. I think government should find an easier method to do it. I came from farm when I heard about it.
I have nothing against them. They are polite and obliging, though I am okay, some people complained that the process is slow. The first day was hell. At the gate, so many elderly people were struggling to gain entry and this caused some problems.
But, at the end, things were brought under control. I think that the government should have found a much easier way to do the verification. I discovered they appear so thorough.