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INSIGHT (Aug 19, 2001)

A TALE OF TEARS AND TEARS

... Continued

… be found.

Said she: "They take a minimum of N500 from you before they can even locate your file".

She continued;" Sometimes they collect as much as N10,000 or N20,000 to arrange for the collection of your pension or pay off. But they may end up doing nothing.

She further revealed that a pensioner's identity card could be sold to somebody else who then claims the attached entitlements and shares the proceeds with the DMP staff, involved.

"When the real owner eventually shows up, he would then be told that his identity card number was mistakenly duplicated." She said.

Mr. Sunday joseph, me secretary of the Retired Soidiers Association confirmed that the DMP has been ravaged by monumental corruption. He said that if the directorate is probed many of its officials would go to jail.

NATIONAL INTEREST learnt that a certain captain who works at the DMP was arrested with "million naira cash at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, while trying to escape a few months ago. Sources also revealed that several junior officers including private and lance corporals own two or three cars. "How do you think they made the money?", the source asked.

Many of the pensioners are miffed that while they are being tossed about in pursuit of their entitlements some officials of the DPM are feeding fat from their misfortune.

Indeed, frequent road trips by the large number of men yet to be paid by DPM has resulted in several fatal road accidents for them.

This was how one of the pensioners lost his life earlier this year. The deceased man identified as Abdul Malik was on his way to Lokoja from Maiduguri when the vehicle he boarded got involved in a crash.

According to Rabi, the late Abdul Malik's wife, her husband was on his way to Lokoja to collect a fresh discharge certificate after the first one he was issued got lost.

Said Rabi: "He was already a pensioner at the time he died.

And without a discharge certificate you cannot collect your entitlements from the DPM"

She continued: "I have only been paid his arrears which was N53,000. I have not been paid everything because the money I am supposed to collect is more what I have been paid. I don't know how to survive with my children".

For most of the retired soldier misery began shortly after they were discharged from the army 22 years ago. Before they were demobilized in 1979, the army authorities had sent doctors to examine soldiers in all military formations across the country to identify those who were medically unfit to continue with military duties.

At the end of the exercise many of those identified were sent to the Nigeria Army Resettlement centre at Oshodi, Lagos and Lakushi near Jos. Many of them underwent vocational training. At the end of the training they were discharged, paid their gratuities and subsequently monthly pension. Payment of those who passed through the resettlement centre was facilitated and made easier because it was handled by the centre's officials. But the only two resettlement centres could not cope with the large number of soldiers who were demobilized that year. The cost of training so many demobilized soldiers became too high for thc military authorities to handle. Hence a sizable number of the men identified as medically unfit were demobilized from their unit and paid their gratuities directly without passing through the resettlement centres. They also had to forfeit vocational training . This category of retired soldiers were asked to expect payment of their pensions through the sub treasuries in their respective localities. They had all filled their home addresses, Local government areas and states of origin. During the 22 year wait, many have died while others have misplaced their discharge certificates. But many of their colleagues who lived in Lagos and other neigbouring states took advantage of their proximity to the DMP and succeeded in ensuring the early release of their accumulated pension. Many of them have been receiving their pensions regularly while those who heeded the DMP's directive and went home to await the release of their own have been left high and dry. However, months after the current civilian administration assumed office in 1999, those affected soldiers saw a silver lining in their plight when the federal government used public radio announcement to summon them to the army records office at Lokoja for screening and verification of authentic pensioners. Days after the radio announcements, the Niger barracks at Lokoja was besieged by the demobilized soldiers who thought that the worst was already over for them. There were embraces , back slappings and jubilation as the men who had fought shoulder lo shoulder during the Nigeria civil war reassembled once again after so many years. By the end of October 1999, two batches of the ex-service men had been screened. The first batch of ex-soldiers had earlier on been screened between July and August. After the screening exercise, both batches of retired men moved over to Lagos in February last year. Payment of those in the first batch was effected by August last year. But payment to member of the second batch which comprised of 4,197 was stopped. They were asked to return to their home states for the verification of all military pensioners which took place nation- wide in September last year. One of the affected men . who identified himself as Augustine Ewah said that he believes that the nation-wide verification did not apply to them. He explained that when they learnt that the exercise was not really meant for them, all of them decided to remain in Lagos pending the completion of the exercise. According to him: To be verified and issued with a pensioners identity card, you must produce your original discharge certificate and your pension advice letter. Since the name of those in batch two have not been compiled for payment of pension, we cannot be in possession of pension advice letter which is a pre-requisite for identifying yourself as a pensioner. It means the verification of pensioners exercise could not have been meant for us" Meanwhile, the ex-soldiers' luckier colleagues in batch one have been paid the pension arrears, issued with pensioners identity cards . They are now receiving their monthly and all allowances due to military pensioners, while their colleagues in batch two are still frustrated in Lagos. Apparently embarrassed by the smear the retired soldiers presence lias given to the military high command, the ex-servicemen have been directed to return to their various homes across the…

To bo continued…

Many of the pensioners aw miffed that while they are being tossed about in pursuit of their entitlements some officials of the DPM are feeding fat from their misfortune. Indeed, frequent road trips by the large number of men.yet to be paid by DPM has resulted in several fatal road accidents for them. Tliis was how one of the pensioners lost his life earlier this year. The deceased man identified as Abdul Malik was on his way to Lokoja from Maiduguri when the vehicle he boarded got involved in a crush .


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