Against the backdrop of fresh threats by a group of retired ex-soldier’s to initiate a nationwide protest action over alleged non payment of their pension entitlements, authorities of the Military Pensions Board have explained that only ex-soldiers who spent up to 15 years between 1977 to 1992 in the military are entitled to pension benefits according to extant laws.
The Pensions Board said these set of ex-soldiers who didn’t make 15 years in the military are only entitled to payment of gratuities for the years spent.
The group of ex-soldier’s led by Babawande Philips after several correspondences with the Ministry of Defence, the Defence Headquarters and Military Pensions Board on the need to include military personnel who served up to 10 years in pensions payment failed, threatened to initiate a nationwide protest to make the federal government accept their demands.
It would be recalled that the fight over the request by the group and other veteran groups urging government reduce the tenure of ex-soldiers entitled to collection of pensions dates back to over 15 years ago with subsequent government’s insisting on the law.
But under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the group are of the belief that as an ex-general who partook in the civil war, he (Buhari) is in a position to appreciate the sacrifices troops made to keep the nation together hence the agitation would be successful this time around.
When contacted on the threat to protest over the non inclusion of 10 years service personnel, Public Relations Officer of the Military Pensions Board Flight Lieutenant Olayinka Lawal insisted that the board’s activities are guided by the Pensions Act and the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
He said, “The Military Pensions Board wishes seeks to correct the allegation by a group called First Intake Able Voluntary Retired or Discharged Ten or More Years Military Service.
“The claim by the group that the board has failed to include them on the pension payroll since they were discharged from the Armed Forces of Nigeria 44 years ago is outright misinformation and should be disregarded by the public”.
“The board wishes to clearly state that its activities are regulated by the Pension Act and the Harmonised Terms and Conditions of Service for the Armed Forces of Nigeria and that the board will not act contrary to the provisions of these statutes.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to state that some members of this group had complained to the Military Pensions Board in the past and the board made it clear to them that they are not entitled to the payment of monthly pensions because they did not serve up to the required 15 years as stipulated by the Pension Act at the time of their retirement.
“Investigations carried out at the board revealed that the majority of the members of this group were retired from the AFN between June 1, 1977, and May 31, 1992. During this period, to qualify for payment of gratuity, a retiree must serve the military for a minimum period of 10 years and must serve for a period not less than 15 years to qualify for payment of monthly pensions”
Lawal disclosed that “A case in point is that of the leader of the group, 63NA/21654 ex-Sergeant Kasali Busari, who was recruited into the Nigerian Army on July 23, 1967, and retired on May 21, 1978, after serving for 10 years and 303 days. He was awarded an additional service period of two years and 177 days as bonus for partaking in the Nigerian Civil War.
“Consequently, his total service years amounted to 13 years, 215 days. This falls short of the required 15 years stipulated in the Pension Act to qualify for payment of monthly pensions at that time, but he was qualified for gratuity and was paid accordingly.”