The Military Pension’s Board (MPB) on Friday disclosed that payment of the 24 months minimum wage salary arrears owed veterans and retired soldiers, which had been the reasons for several protest actions by veterans and ex-soldiers in several parts of the country in recent months, have commenced nationwide.
Consequently, over 90, 000 retired military pensioners who are alive and active are to be paid the 25 per cent of the arrears of salary increment which is the first installment.
Chairman, Military Pensions Board, Rear Admiral Saburi Lawal who made this disclosure in Abuja at a media briefing, however explained that family members or next of kin’s (NOKs) of deceased officers and soldiers whose former breadwinners passed on after the new Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect, who form just 3 % would be paid 100% of the 24 months arrears while the active pensioners who form over 97 % will be paid quarterly.
Clarifying certain apprehensions as to why the 24 months arrears were not paid in lump sum to the military pensioners, since it was captured in the 2022 budget, Rear Admiral Lawal said, “The directive for payment of the arrears was passed down in April 2021. By then, the 2021 budget was already law and being implemented. There was no provision for the arrears of minimum wage increment”.
“So it was a Special Intervention as a result of a meeting between the MPB, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff, that resulted in funds being secured for the payment.
“Initially, the Finance ministry said they will source funds for the payment of the arrears, since money has already been budgeted for the year and that they will carry out monthly payments beginning from January 2022. But the minister of Defence intervened and urged the Finance minister to do all within her powers to pay the arrears in one fell swoop”.
“The Finance minister stated however that there were already lots of other financial demands on ground from other sectors of the economy. She however promised the minister that instead of a monthly payment of the arrears, it would be done quarterly beginning from January 2022 and would be completed by October 2022.
During the briefing, Rear Admiral Lawal said, “The Military Pensions Board (MPB) extends its compliments to our esteemed military retirees and wishes to inform them that the Board started paying 25 percent of the arrears of minimum wage increments to eligible military retirees on MPB payroll on Thursday 3 February 2022.
“This payment is the first out of 4 install-mental payments that will be made to all pensioners entitled to the arrears of minimum wage increment on pensions.
“Our esteemed pensioners are to note that this install-mental payment arrangement is the outcome of the discussions and agreement reached between the Board and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning (FMoFBNP) for quarterly releases of the appropriated sum in the first month of each quarter.
“Thus, all things being equal, subsequent payments of the outstanding arrears will be in the months of April, July and October 2022.
“Additionally, I would like to further inform that all Next of Kins (NOKs) of deceased military pensioners who are eligible for same arrears would be paid the minimum wage increments together with the shortfall of the death benefits earlier paid to them.
“Accordingly, Next of Kins of deceased military pensioners who died between April 2019 and April 2021 are advised to contact their bank’s for these payments.
“Furthermore, the Board would like to reiterate that this payment is basically for arrears of increment in pensions of military retirees who are on MPB payroll between 18 April 2019 and 30 April 2021.
“In addition, it is pertinent to state that pensions of senior officers of the rank of Major General and above or its equivalents are not affected by the consequential adjustments on pensions occasioned by the new National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act 2019.
“Hence, they are not entitled to the 24 months minimum wage arrears.
“The MPB wishes to assure our esteemed military retirees, NOKs and other well-meaning Nigerians that the Board remains resolute and will ensure complete payment of the arrears before the end of the year, subject to release of funds by the FMoFBNP”.
Regarding the planned introduction of electronic verification of military pensioners aimed at fishing out ghost pensioners and save retired senior citizens the stress of having to travel long distances to queue up in the sun or rain for physical verification, the MPB Chairman said, “We have gone very far towards its implementation. We are 95 % ready to deploy. It is a package that will give military pensioners the opportunity where ever they reside whether in Nigeria or anywhere in the world, to be verified from the comfort of their homes.”
Reminded that the protesting ex-soldiers also listed payment of security/debarment allowance and poor allocations for medical treatment among their grievances, Rear Admiral Lawal said, the veterans were advised to approach the Defence Health Maintenance Agency for resolution of that matter while the Minister of Defence, Major Gen Bashir Magashi has assured them that the issue of debarment allowance is being addressed.