In what could be described as a historical antecedent in the lives of former Biafra Police officers, who fought the civil war 50 years ago, respite came their way on Friday as the Pension Transitional Directorate Arrangement (PTAD) rekindled their hopes and believes in the unity of the country when a process that started and discarded 17 years ago was finally accomplished by the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor. MATHEW DADIYA reports.
The ex-Biafra police officers numbering over 400 from the South-East and South-South states were full of euphoria as they received alerts for their pensions 17 years after former President Olusegun Obasanjo granted them amnesty.
Ikeazor, who said that she was excited to see the war veterans happy, added that her determination to put smiles on their faces was made possible by President Muhammadu Buhari who she also described as her political mentor.
President Buhari had penultimate Wednesday approved the payment of pensions to the dismissed Biafra police officers who fought in the 30-month Nigeria-Biafra civil war which ended in 1970.
She said it marks another milestone in reintegrating the hitherto neglected officers and men of the Nigeria Police who have suffered untold hardship over the years catering for their needs and that of their dependents.
The Executive Secretary of PTAD, who flagged-off the pension payments for the retired war affected police officers in Enugu, was amazed when the event turned to a dance party immediately they started getting credit alerts from their various banks.
The ecstasy became uncontrollable as the President of the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria, Mr Fidelis Oyakhilome pressed the button of the instant transfer machine and they started receiving alerts of the payment in their various bank accounts.
Some of the retired officers, The Daily Times gathered, started receiving alerts for the payment of the pension on Thursday night with some of them getting about half a million naira.
The pensioners in their frenzy of rage over Mrs. Ikeazor’s care for pensioners and the fulfillment of their dreams, bestowed on her a special merit award even as they also gave her the title of Odi Uko na Mba, meaning one that is rare in a community
The Executive Secretary of PTAD, told the ex-Biafra police officers that she was also a policeman’s daughter because her grandfather, Eugene Ikeazor, was one of the first police officers commissioned along with Louis Edet – the first indigenous Inspector General of Police.
Ikeazor thanked President Buhari for his magnanimity in approving the payment of the pension without further delay.
Speaking further, Ikeazor said, “My greatest appreciation goes to my President, Muhammadu Buhari without him, I would not have been on this job. He is my leader and mentor in politics. He is a man of integrity; and that is how I cut my own brand of integrity in politics. That is why I was able to be national women leader of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and later All Progressives Congress (APC) national women leader.”
According to her, “162 officers who have never been on the payroll and 57 next of kin who have also not been paid their death benefits will be paid today,” while 155 others who are on the payroll, but were being short-paid would be paid in the next batch as soon as their pension benefit computation was concluded.
“You would all recall that Nigeria witnessed an ugly civil war between July, 1967 and January, 1970 and as a result of that unfortunate period, some members of the Armed Forces, the Nigeria Police and the paramilitary officers who joined the secessionist were dismissed from service.
“After many years in the limbo, they were pardoned and honourably retired from the Nigeria Police Force through a presidential amnesty granted on 29th May, 2000 by the administration of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo,” she recalled.
Mrs Ikeazor explained that to implement the Federal Government’s decision on the pardoned officers, a full blown verification of the pardoned officers was carried out by the defunct Police Pension Office; recently by PTAD and the Police Service Commission.
According to the Executive Secretary, the verification exercise conducted in late 2014 and early 2015 resulted in identifying about 460 of the police officers who were caught up in the civil war.
She said that despite the presidential pardon and the verification of these officers,”many of them remained unpaid for years,” adding, however, that President Buhari graciously gave approval for the payment of the pension entitlements to the affected officers and their next of kin.
The PTAD boss sad, “Today marks another milestone in reintegrating the hitherto neglected officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force who have suffered untold hardship over the years catering for their needs and that of their dependents.
“This represents another decision by the current Federal Government to end the painful legacies of the civil war, and indeed a clear demonstration that President Muhammadu Buhari is indeed a father to all Nigerians and that his administration’s reforms under PTAD will ensure that Nigerians who spent the productive years of their lives serving their nation will not experience difficulties in getting their pensions,” Ikeazor said.
She commended the Mr. Fidelis Oyakhilome, President of Association of payment of pension benefits to the retired war-affected police officers.
President of the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria, Mr Oyakhilome, thanked President Buhari for making it possible for the retired Biafra police officers to get their pension even when all hope seemed to be lost many years after they have been granted amnesty.
Oyakhilome also thanked Mrs Ikeazor for standing in for the officers.
President of Association of Retired War-Affected Police Officers from South-East and South-South states, Mr Matthew Udeh, thanked God for keeping the members of his association alive to see the day.
Udeh also thanked President Buhari for approving the recommendations presented to him by Mrs Ikeazor, as well as authorising her to pay full retirement benefits to the war-affected police officers in compliance with the letters and spirit of the presidential amnesty granted to them by President Obasanjo.
“We commend President Buhari for approving the allocation of funds to the executive secretary for this payment.
“Our last port of call is on the Executive Secretary, Ikeazor who expeditiously packaged our case, presented it to President Buhari, and followed it up until President Buhari gave his assent and blessing, within two months of her assumption of office,” Udeh added.