NO fewer than 600 retired staff of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) have accused the agency of ‘fraudulently’ diverting about N1.5 billion pension funds revealing that the fraud dated as far back as 2003.
This has been followed by a swift denial of the alleged crime by the agency.
The pensioners, under the auspices of Airspace Management Pensioners Association of Nigeria (AMPAN), an affiliate of the Federal Parastatals and Private Sector Pensioners Association of Nigeria (FEPPAN), revealed that they were being shortchanged by management monthly.
Chairman, AMPAN, Engr. Kester Omotayo who spoke at the delegates’ conference of the association held at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos said the short payment of the pensioners had lingered for over 10 years, maintaining that this was either due to ignorance, inefficiency, or corruption in the system.
Omotayo explained that the short payment of the pensioners started with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) returnee pensioners to NAMA in 2005, stressing that the pension increase effective from 2003 was not implemented by the agency’s management.
He explained that the Human Resources Department of NAMA was duly notified of the issue but declined to address the imbalance in the system.
He alleged that, rather, the department took offence and decided to delay actions on its several submissions on the issue since 2017.
Omotayo also accused the agency of operating two pension structures, perhaps to deliberately cover up or attempt to cover some sharp practices in the pension division of the Human Resources Department, stressing that efforts to look into the books of NAMA as it concerns pension were snubbed.
He added: “The pension indebtedness has accumulated to over N1 billion. We have submitted a foolproof tabulated analysis to NAMA management for well over a year, but, as usual, there was no positive action taken. Our request for dialogue on the issue has also been rebuffed.
“It is not unlikely that NAMA operates on two pension structures, may be to deliberately cover or attempt to cover some sharp practices in the pension division of the Human Resources Department.
“This we suspected when, in 2017, we requested them for the structure with which our pensions were being paid.
“This has been reported to the NAMA Pensions Board of Trustees for well-over two years.
“The same board accountant has also failed to render a statement of account to the present board since its inception. The previous board accountant rendered accounts regularly on every quarterly meeting.”
Also Comrade Olayinka Abioye, another retiree of NAMA, corroborated the position of Omotayo stating that investigation carried out by the pensioners revealed that they were being short paid by the management to the tune of N1.5 billion since 2003.
“As I speak to you today, we have done a comparative analysis of what our counterparts in FAAN are earning and what we ought to be earning if our pensions are correctly computed, it is about N1.5 billion between 2003 and now.
“The past management pleaded with the unions that they could not afford to pay what they owed and promised to give us some percentage of the short payment and said when the fortune of NAMA improved, they would make up the difference, but today they have been playing pranks.
“I was retired in FAAN in 1996 and in 2003 or so, those of us who were professionals were transferred to NAMA.
“And there was some realignment in salary structure and the law says that when salaries and allowances are reviewed, pensions must be correspondingly reviewed, but NAMA never acceded to that.
“As I speak to you today, somebody who retired on the same level with me, the same number of years is earning more than N11, 000 monthly than me.
“This has affected those of us who were moved from FAAN to NAMA. All the increases that the government has announced or the increment in their salaries and allowances in the last 15 years, pensioners have never benefitted; NAMA didn’t follow the law.”
He alleged that pension funds at NAMA had been grossly mismanaged and accused the management of evading meetings with the unions.
NAMA debunks fraud allegations by pensioners
However NAMA in a reaction to these allegations issued a statement:
“The attention of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has been drawn to unsubstantiated claims by some officials of Airspace Management Pensioners Association of Nigeria (AMPAN) to the effect that the agency has been shortchanging its members in their monthly pension payment.
“In a statement making the rounds on social media, Mr Kester Omotayo accused NAMA of “operating two pension structures, perhaps to deliberately cover up or attempt to cover up some sharp practices…” and that “our request for dialogue on the issue has also been rebuffed.”
“The agency makes bold to say that the above allegations are completely spurious and borne out of either malice, ignorance or both.
“The facts on ground are as follows:
(a) The agency received a correspondence from the pensioners whereby they alleged irregularities in the payment of their entitlements owing to disparity with those of other agencies in the sector.
(b) Consequently, the agency set up a committee (with membership comprising pensioners themselves) to investigate and come up with findings.
(c) NAMA does not and will not for any reason, operate two pension accounts. It is impossibility, given the existing Treasury Single Account (TSA) platform in operation.
(d) As it stands today, the panel is still sitting and is yet to come up with its findings.
(e) NAMA is up-to-date in its obligation to pensioners as they have received their November remunerations as at 26th of November, 2020.
“NAMA is therefore startled and disenchanted to hear that some officials of the organization have decided to run to the press on a matter that is still being investigated.
“We make bold therefore to say that the agency runs on a transparent platform with zero tolerance for corruption, even as it is poised to protect and promote the interests of its senior citizens at all times”, the statement read.