The Military Pension Board has reacted to a Humangle report on the official neglect of widows of Nigerian soldiers, who are suffering several years after their husbands died in active service.
In the report also published by PREMIUM TIMES, HumAngle had reported on November 19 that the widows are faced with harsh conditions in the barracks due to their inability to access the late partners’ entitlements.
They said putting food on the table for their children and accessing other basic life needs have become increasingly difficult for them.
While children of slain soldiers are entitled to funded scholarship opportunities, many of them are battling for survival in the barracks.
Reacting to this newspaper’s findings on Friday, the spokesperson of the military pensions board, Olayinka Lawal, said two of the four widows interviewed in our report were paid the death benefits of their deceased husbands.
“The death benefits of 91NA/32/4128 Corporal Oladejo Joseph was paid to the First Bank account of one Precious Joseph Ayomide who happens to be the daughter and recorded next of kin of the deceased soldier in the Board’s database in Dec. 2013.”
“The death benefits of 04NA/55/1726 Lance Corporal Sunday Orji was also paid to the Guarantee Trust Bank account of Mrs Emilla Orji Sunday who is the wife and the recorded NOK of the deceased soldier in Nov. 2018,” part of the statement read.
Mr Lawal did not provide evidence for his claim, saying that “the account numbers and the amounts paid to these NOKs are not stated in order to respect the confidentiality of such details but would be released if need be.”
Loopholes in the rejoinder
While four widows shared their challenges with HumAngle in the report, the military pensions board only spoke about paying the death benefits of two widows.
Mr Lawal was silent on the neglect of the widow of Adamu Caleb that died in 2018 and widow of Garba Musa who died in early 2020.
HumAngle understands that aside from death benefits, the military is supposed to pay families of deceased insurance benefits and periodic scholarships for children above six-years after the death of their benefactors.
Mr Lawal, however, did not say in his statement whether these payments were made or not to the families.
The death benefit programme is payment of burial expenses to families of soldiers who died in active service. This benefit, according to the military, is the same regardless of the cause of death.
The purpose is to assist deceased family members to meet their financial needs during the period of burial. After the death benefit, other benefits such as life insurance and scholarships for children of the deceased’s children follow.
Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, provides that “every employer shall maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of each employee for a minimum of three times the annual total emolument of the employee and premium shall be paid not later than the date of commencement of the cover.”
To get slain soldiers’ insurance, families are mandated to submit the required documents for onward processing of their late spouses’ life insurance claims which is usually based on the ranks of the slain soldiers.
The widows or next-of-kin are to present a condolence letter, affidavit and declaration as next-of-kin (from a magistrates’ court), death certificate (from a hospital), death notification, as well as 12 passport photographs of the next-of-kin and the slain soldier to get this.
Also, scholarship entitlements to children and dependents of all deceased personnel who died in active service are meant to be paid yearly provided the families completed their registration within six-months after the death of their benefactors.
This newspaper contacted the affected families again for reconfirmation and they insisted that no benefits had been given years after completion of necessary processes.
When our reporter confronted the pensions board spokesperson, Mr Lawal, with the loopholes in his statement, he simply responded that “the military entitlement is a specialised field. The military pensions board is charged with the responsibility of payment of gratuity, pension, and death benefits. I am speaking for the military pensions board and we have done our part.”
He said gratuity and pensions are for retired soldiers while death benefits are for those who died in active service.
Asked why he refused to address the status of insurance and scholarship of the widows and their children in his statement, he said, “You may need to contact Defence Headquarters for further information on that. I don’t have the competencies to talk about that.” He also said the “army should be responsible for scholarships payment.”
When this paper requested for the amount and account numbers he claimed the pensions board paid Orji’s and Joseph’s families death benefits into, he told our reporter to rather get the statement of accounts of the families for confirmation. HumAngle has asked the affected families for this for follow up reports on the matter.
Mr Lawal also defended himself for not addressing the cases of two other widows our report captured, saying, “I think that is an omission on our part but it is because the report did not provide their service numbers.”
Our reporter contacted army spokesperson Onyema Nwachukwu to react to the claim that the army is responsible for payment of children of slain soldiers’ scholarships.
Mr Nwachukwu, however, responded with the same rejoinder written by the pensions board as a collective response to our report from the army and pensions board.
Again, Benjamin Sawyerr, the Defence Headquarters spokesperson, did not respond to calls and text messages on delay in payment of life insurance of slain soldiers to their families.
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