…Alleges “School authority shortchanged 700 pensioners.”
by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
A 63-years-old pensioner of Kaduna Polytechnic, Mr. Bala A. Zakka, has made some startling revelations on a number of “vexing issues,” including alleged 16 years’ unpaid arrears and balance of their gratuity.
Bala Zakka, in an interview with our Kaduna correspondent, also lamented that out of about 700 of them that retired from Kaduna Polytechnic under the reformed pension, many have died, while waiting in vain for the arrears and balance of their gratuity.
He also alleged that, Polytechnic management collected a cheque containing certain money for arrears for 24 months but only paid them 15 months, and nothing is heard of the remaining balance of the 9 months till date.
According to him, their colleagues in other federal government agencies, including National Eye Centre, collected same amount, and paid out all to the affected pensioners: Excerpts:
Qus. Tell us; who are you, where you worked, your service years and your complaints now, Sir?
My name is Bala O. Zakka. I’m 63-yrs-old. I started working in Kaduna Polytechnic 29th November, 1979, to April, 2008. I had my last salary in May, 2008. I’ve retired in April, 2008, under the new pension reform, earning our salaries on counts.
We earn salary on counts but we are paid our gratuity on Grade Level (GL) instead of the counts. When they came for screening in 2011 with Pension, Transition Arrangement and Directorate (PTAD), the federal government agency handling payment of the pension screened us and confirmed in the form of data that the new salary structure is on “counts” and promised that they were going to reflect it and pay us the differences of the gratuity.
We waited, but nothing came, and they came again and conducted another fresh last screening and said we should wait for the arrears, that they will pay us our actual differences and implement the counts on our pension. Up till that time and now, the implementation did not take place; they have not paid us the differences.
Qus. What are the differences?
The differences that I saw in one of the pension offices in Gazette was about over N400,000. Now, they said we should wait for the payment, that the differences will reflect; but till now, nothing has been done. Up till December, 2017, when the minister announced that our arrears will be paid and that there is money for that, in the PTAD, and that everybody will be cleared even within that December, but nothing happened till now.
They shift it to July, 2022, to pay and said the reason is because the minister re- scheduled it; but till now, nothing has been heard again.
Qus: On the “counts,” can you expatiate?
As someone, who retired on ‘counts 8.15,’ I supposed to be collecting N66,000 monthly, as the way they give the data. But they slashed it to N56,000. There was 30% rise that now rises to N61,000. The increase is just N6,000, that’s what I’m earning now – N61,000.
This affected all the categories of my colleagues. So, I’m pleading with them to do something for us. We are stranded; and many of us have lost their lives. We are still waiting and crying to see that they give us something.
Qus: Are you aware of any pensioner or pensioners, who have been paid their own?
The Immigration, the Warders carry lawyers at that time, and they were able to pay them their entitlements even what we’re owing, as they were owing. Their own has been paid them, everything, with maybe only 6 months remaining.
The meeting they had last with National Union comprising of army, civilian, precisely on 28th July-29 this year, they promised to pay us. But that there was disagreement between them because PTAD said they want to split the payment to 3 times. But the union said since it’s not every pensioner that is affected, it should be paid at once. Since then, we didn’t hear anything again.
Qus: How about your usual monthly pension?
Our usual monthly pension, on GL, has been running uninterrupted, and we are commending them for that. We are talking about the arrears and balance of our gratuity that are supposed to also come in all our pensions. They don’t delay army’s own payment because it’s a separate account, but only the civilians suffering the delay.
Qus: You also talked about certain amount of money sent to the Polytechnic authority as arrears. Can you explain?
Again, in addition to that, there was certain amounts of money sent as arrears, around December, 2019 – about 24 months arrears – to our management. They collected the cheque. The management paid 15 months, leaving 9 months. Till date we have not seen anything again.
The arrears and balance of gratuity does not affect civilians, who retired on their own; only we the reform staff. For instance, while I collected gratuity of N2 million only, or N2.3 million – N2.75 million, my colleagues before then collected N6-N7 millions as gratuity.
Qus: How many of the retirees are affected, or, victims of these shortfalls?
Well, the affected numbers of retired staff is 700, from Kadpoly; but many have died awaiting the arrears of gratuity and left their families and loved ones suffering.
Qus: What do you want to say to government?
Me and my colleagues are appealing to the Federal Government to help us come to our aide. Many of us are dying. No security for farming now. To see the daily bread now is hard. Even though, they have been trying in monthly payments, let them try more to assist us, because, it will help us to reduce the tension on us because of our responsibilities.
“Affected army representatives reluctantly ate heavy banquet lunch provided for them during the last meeting they had with PTAD on grounds that, they were not there for such ‘balanced diet’ when their colleagues were suffering. And it’s not going to be there for them continuously to eat with their other retired pensioners. All they said they want is their money, not eating food there,” Zakka stated.
Contacted, PTAD office in Kaduna staffs said the matter is beyond their schedule, and directed our correspondent to contact their Headquarters in Abuja. They, however, acknowledged notice of “I’m Alive Verification” being conducted on affected Kaduna Polytechnic pensioners in the state, for N200.00 cost of data.
Also in the same vein, these allegations were corroborated by the Polytechnic pensioners’ executive officials when contacted during investigation.