The Federal Government on Wednesday inaugurated a working group to address the crisis involving the payment of pension to Nigerian military personnel.
While the government says the financial implication of the pension payment has increased by about 33 per cent, the military pensioners are demanding the settlement of 53 per cent arrears of their entitlements.
The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the working group would have the mandate to harmonise positions on pension arrears and address other issues around the payment of pensions to retired military personnel in the country.
The group consists of representatives of the Federal Ministry of Finance and their military pensioners counterparts.
The constitution of the group was the key outcome of a meeting between the Federal Ministry of Finance led by the minister, and representatives of military pensioners who stormed the Federal Ministry of Finance headquarters on Wednesday morning to protest the continued delay in the payment of their pension arrears.
The pensioners had said that they had been receiving a 33 per cent increase on their pensions entitlements since August 2013, but demanded that the benefit be raised to 53 per cent to put them at par with their colleagues in active service.
The working group, which has the Chairman Military Pension Board and representatives of the military pensioners, the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission as well as staff of the Federal Military of Finance as members, would be chaired by the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Bright Okogu.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala had told the aggrieved pensioners that the crisis was as a result of the demand for 53 per cent increase in public sector wages implemented by government in 2010, saying this had left government with a very high recurrent budget, which was posing a significant funding challenge.
The minister said that although she was not in office when the increase in pension was implemented, government is a continuum and the ministry under her watch would attempt to resolve the problem with the support of President Goodluck Jonathan.
She explained that it was because of the resolve to solve the problem that the federal government implemented a 33 percent increase in military pensions since August 2013 following the recommendation of a government committee.
On the pension arrears, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala reiterated government’s commitment to pay, pointing out that given the country’s economic realities, it had to be done in phases.
“I cannot tell you that everything will be paid at once, but I can assure you that you will be paid when we agree on a realistic schedule”, the minister said.