Leaders of the Cherubim and Seraphim Unification Church of Nigeria on Friday at the State House, Abuja, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the immediate release of Leah Sharibu, one of the schoolgirls still in the captivity of the Boko Haram.
The leader of the delegation, Solomon Adegboyega also told President Buhari to remain resolute, particularly in the war against corruption.
The visitors asked the president to use his good offices to ensure the release of Leah, being held captive by Boko Haram for refusing to renounce her faith.
Miss Sharibu is one of the Dapchi schoolgirls abducted nearly a year ago. While others have been released, Leah is still in captivity
The clerics also canvassed a level playing field for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free and fair polls; and a consideration of the clamour for the restructuring of the federation.
“We anticipate that corruption, which is killing Nigeria, may fight back, but you will prevail because majority of Nigerians are with you,” they said.
Mr Buhari expressed happiness at the visit but urged the clerics to keep him in their prayers.
“I am very grateful for this visit,” the President said. “God will answer our prayers. With your prayers, we will go into the field, and be victorious. Your good intentions and prayers are appreciated. This is what is expected of institutions working for God.”
President Buhari said he was glad that the church lauded the good work being done by government in the areas of infrastructure, anti-corruption, and security.
“It will encourage us to do more. We have no other country than Nigeria, and we must do the best for her. I said it more than a generation ago. Thank you for identifying with our objectives.”
Also on Friday, Mr Buhari said his administration has put a stop to the dehumanisation of federal pensioners by ensuring they were paid their entitlements and backlog of arrears as at when due.
The president spoke when he received a delegation of Nigeria Union of Pensioners led by the acting president, Musa Ayuba Dallatu, at State House.
President Buhari declared that the welfare of pensioners had remained a priority for his administration since May 2015, noting that the retirees deserve timely payment of their emoluments, recognition, and respect for their work and dedication to the country during their active working years.
‘‘In recent times pensioners were ignored, neglected and even persecuted. We have put a stop to that. As you yourselves have confirmed today, we have begun regular payment of monthly pensions and payment of backlog of arrears.
‘‘The federal government released N45 billion accrued rights for the contributory pension scheme and N22.4 billion to start payment of ex-Nigeria Airways pensioners,’’ he said.
President Buhari told the pensioners that the federal government also bailed out states to address salary and pension arrears including Paris Club refunds, even as he had authorised schemes for the restoration of Niger Delta Steel Company pensioners, NITEL/MTEL pensioners and Biafra Police war veterans pensioners.
Reviewing the actions taken so far by the administration in connection with the pension industry, the president said the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) had saved N4.9 trillion per annum as a result of payroll clean-up under the Civil Service verification exercise.
He added that the directorate which supervised the payment of pension arrears to over 50,000 verified Civil Service Pensioners, also oversaw the payment of N917.6 million to 432 war retirees.
According to the president, under his watch, PTAD completed full payment of N5.8 billion to police retirees in August 2018 while in November 2018, N13.7 billion was paid to parastatal retirees and N18 billion to civil service Pensioners.
‘‘These few examples testify to the Government’s positive impact on pensioners’ lives. In addition, we achieved huge savings in budgetary provisions through the elimination of ghost and duplicated details.
‘‘We have restored qualified pensioners arbitrarily removed from the payroll, thus bringing succour and hope to senior citizens, thereby improving the confidence of the entire county in the Government and its policies,’’ he said.
On the requests by the pensioners, including the implementation of the National Policy on Pension Parity and the National Policy on Social Security on Health and Other Related Matters of the Elderly, the president promised to do all within his powers to address them, subject to the availability of funds.
The leader of the delegation had also sought the president’s intervention on the five per cent counterpart funding for the payment of local government pensioners and retired primary school teachers which were arbitrarily stopped in 2010.
Mr Dallatu appealed for the payment of outstanding pension arrears, gratuities and death benefits that have accrued over the years, among others.
Commending President Buhari on the regular payment of pensions, Mr Dallatu said: ‘‘we are bold to say without fear or favour that you have made our lives better than you met it in so many areas, which among others include regular payment of monthly pensions.
‘‘It is an incontestable fact that since the advent of this government under your able leadership, payment of monthly pensions has been more regular than ever. In fact, if the truth must be told, Mr President Sir, we have never had it so good.’’