NPA pensioners protest irregular pension increment

Hadiza Bala Usman,

Over 100 pensioners of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) on Wednesday protested at the NPA Headquarters in Marina, Lagos, against what they called “irregular pension increment” of their pensions since 2008.

Armed with placards, some of which read: “Allah Ya Yisa NPA”, “Your Pensioners Want to Dialogue with You”, “Let’s Discuss Our Pension”, among others, the pensioners who assembled under the aegis of NPA Pensioners’ Welfare Association said the protest became necessary, after several attempts to meet management on the issue had failed.

The President of the association, Mr. Charles Binitie indicated that the pensioners would not call off the protest should the management decline to meet with them over the matter.

“We have been on the matter since 2008 but the management will not meet or discuss with us on the issue”, Binitie told Maritime First, stressing that all the association members belonged to the old pension act, which compelled the management of NPA to care for them till death.

“It is our constitutional right because the constitution stated that whenever there was an increase in the staff salary, it should also reflect in pensions being paid to the retired staff, but this has not been so.

“The salaries of NPA staff have been increased many times between 2005 and 2017 but such increments have not reflected in our pensions.

“The NPA management has been denying us our rights since 2008 and all we are asking for is to dialogue with them but they are refusing to dialogue with us,” he said.

Binitie said that the association had written several letters to the management.

He added that the association also wrote to the Minister of Transportation who told the management to look into the issue but to no avail.

According to him, the association dragged the management before National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, which appealed to NPA to settle the contentious matters, which also failed.

He said the workers were shocked on Wednesday when no senior or low management staff attended to them during the protest. He said the pensioners had now vowed to continue the protest until the management called them for discussion.

“If the management had gone for an official assignment out of the premises as we were told, a staff member was supposed to have attended to us”, he reasoned further.

However, in a swift reaction, the NPA management on Wednesday issued a statement to counter the pensioners protest, describing the protest as ‘blackmail’, which management would not accept.

“The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority hereby rejects the blackmail of a section of its former workers who have assembled under the name; Nigerian Ports Authority Concerned Pensioners (NPACP), a group that is not known to any Nigerian law”.

The Authority in a statement signed by its General Manager, General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications Affairs, Adams Jatto also, hinted that the group’s trouble was rooted in the fact that they refused to belong to the recognised Nigerian Ports Authority Pensioners Welfare Association (NPAPWA).

“Although members of this group, led by Mr. Charles Ayo Binitieare former employees of the Authority, most of who left the service between 2006 and 2007, have refused to belong to the recognised Nigerian Ports Authority Pensioners Welfare Association (NPAPWA).

“The NPAPWA is recognised by management on the strength of a July 20, 2018 letter addressed to the Managing Director by the Chief Registrar, Federal High Court Lagos, Mr. A.A Tahir recognizing Alhaji Umar Ali Imam as the authentic caretaker committee member to take charge of the association.

“Even though the Authority has found this a legitimate ground not to have anything to do with the group, management has at various times in the past three years, given them audience and taken steps to address their complaints. Some of the steps, which have resulted from meetings with some of their representatives and affected NPA’s8000 pensioners include:

  • Harmonisation of pensions ranging from 15% to 158%  paid to all categories of pensioners including the 2006/2007 set.
  • The increase of pensions to all categories of pensioners including members of the NPACP by 3%
  • Payment of 18months arrears of 3% increase on the harmonized pension/salary from January 2016 to June 2017
  • The NPA ensures that all its pensioners get their monthly entitlements which cumulatively runs into about N700m on the 22nd day of every month, way ahead of serving members of staff.
  • In addition to this, all pensioners have access to the Authority’s medical facilities at no cost. In fact, the Authority only recently extended the opportunities for pensioners to attend referral medical facilities across the six geo-political zones of the country.

“Their current grouse is that the 3% increase approved by the Authority is too little and must be increased. This proposal is not just outrageous but unacceptable to the Authority, which is aware of the state of its finances and cannot make unsustainable commitments.

“Our position has also been validated by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, which clarified that the constitution leaves the margin for increase of such remuneration at the discretion of the Authority.

“The NPACP is also claiming that the Authority increased the salary of staff in January 2018 and as such, pensioners should benefit.

“The correct position, which has been clarified by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission in a letter written to the Honourable Minister of Transportation on May 31, 2018 is that the Authority only corrected “inherent anomalies” in its salary scale and that this cannot be equated with a salary increase.

“The Board of the NPA, in replying a letter written to it by the NPACP has also indicated that the Authority will no longer entertain members of the NPACP or any group of pensioners for that matter unless they channel their requests through the NPAPWA.

“The NPA advises all members of the NPACP who are said to contribute various sums of money under the claims of “settling” people at the NPA or National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to desist from the act forthwith. There is in this claim and NPA has no dealings with the NPACP.

“The Authority has taken every opportunity to state its commitment to the welfare of its workforce, serving or retired but will not allow itself to be stampeded by the NPACP or any other group”, the NPA statement concluded.

It is noteworthy that the Nigerian Ports Authority has recently been in the regular eyes of the storm; seemingly taking on a battle, after another. It frontally took on the Intels, sacked it; confronted the BUA Terminal Operators, legitimately decommissioned it; even as it took in stride, little huddles from Authority workers who were sacked in 2007/2008 and effortlessly downed it.

The only challenge that has probably remained yet insurmountable has been the chronic, dreaded gridlock.

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