From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
Ex-Biafra police officers from the South-East and South-South states yesterday went wild in joy as they started receiving alerts for their pensions 17 years after former President Olusegun Obasanjo granted them amnesty.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on 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.
Over 400 of the officers who gathered at the Ingrace Event Centre, Rangers Avenue, Independence Layout, Enugu, venue of the flag off of the pension payments of retired war-affected police officers danced in joy 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.
Saturday Sun gathered that some of the retired officers actually started getting alerts for the payment of the pension on Thursday night with some of them getting close to half a million naira.
In her speech on the occasion, the Executive Secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, said that she was highly elated to commence the payment of pension benefits to the retired war-affected police officers.
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 disclosed 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.
“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.
“Despite the presidential pardon and the verification of these officers, many of them remained unpaid for years,” she said, adding that President Buhari, however, this week graciously gave approval for the payment of the pension entitlements to the affected officers and their next of kin.
“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 bring closure to 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,” she said.
She thanked the president for his magnanimity in approving the payment of the pension without further delay.
Also speaking, the 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 authorizing 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, Sharon 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 said.
Also retired police DIG and now President of the Association of Retired Police Officers of Nigeria, Mr Fidelis Oyakhilome, thanked President Buhari for making it possible for the retired Biafra police officers to get their pension many years after they have been granted amnesty.
He also thanked Mrs Ikeazor for standing in for the officers. The pensioners ostensibly happy over what Mrs Ikeazor did for them bestowed on her a special merit award just as they also gave her the title name of Odi Uko na Mba, meaning one that is rare in a community.