By Dipo Olowookere
Acting Director General/Executive Secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD), Mr Murtala Musa Oluwatoyin, has disclosed that about N16 billion is paid monthly as pension.
The PTAD boss disclosed this and others in a recent interview. Excerpts:
PTAD’s Data Mess
Before I took over, we had a lot of issues. In fact, I have the personal experience of my uncle who applied for over two years and they were asking him to wait for clarification but when I took over and based on that experience, I found out that the problem is that of records. We have updated the records, we have their files and we have done so many of them. And more are still coming. As at last week, we added 178 pensioners with complaints and we paid their arrears.
Our pension liabilities keep reducing every month. Presently, we have been able to pay part of the 33 percent arrears being owed pensioners. I have paid all outstanding 33 per cent increment arrears for those in the paramilitary services from the savings we are making.
Similarly, for civil service pension, I have paid 12 months’ arrears and I am still planning to pay another 12 months very soon. For parastatals, we have been able to pay 12 months but we have issue of records with them. Before they were unbundled to us, some of the trust funds have been paying them so now we are asking for information on how much they have been paid. Once that is done, we will move ahead.
All the regular and payment of arrears we have been making are from the normal funds we receive. There have been no additional funds released to us. We make the savings from ghost manes we have been able to remove from the payroll. In one particular week, we closed about 800 different accounts in one day from various banks which we passed to ICPC for investigation. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with ICPC on pension fraud and they have promised to assist us. We are hoping that very soon we will unravel those behind the illegal accounts. It is an ongoing process however and there may be more discoveries.
BVN Has Helped
We have been using BVN to track multiple accounts. Many of such accounts are hurriedly being closed now because they realize we are on to them.
However, there are times that we remove some names because they did not appear for verification, which we later re-inserted if such people come forward and were able to prove that they were either sick or travelled and couldn’t appear for the verification exercise or because their accounts went dormant.
We have not been able to pay arrears of police pension. However, we have been able to establish their records and over the years we have been paying most of them. We have also captured those who were hitherto not being paid. Because most names on police pension payroll are genuine, we have not been able to make much savings from them. Even when I paid 12 months’ arrears across board, I could only manage to pay three months to police pensioners. Even then, I had to harvest from the savings I made from others to be able to pay the three months. We explained this to Police Pension Union. Right now, we have requested for additional funds and once we get this, or by December if we are able to make more savings from the paramilitary, who we do not owe any arrears, we will be able to divert that to pay police.
Challenges At PTAD
The primary challenge that I have is funding. The economy is in recession and so funding is a general problem. Another challenge is that of records and verification. We still have to go for verification. Right now, we are trying to raise funds so that we can embark on verification exercise for civil service pensioners. The verification will also enable us to know our pensioners physically and know the names that we are supposed to remove from our payroll.
When PTAD was established, we did not have any records. We just took over the payrolls that Mr Maina and others were using. It is now that we are cleaning the process with the records we have been able to generate. It is a tedious process, trying to establish an authentic payroll.
On Former PTAD DG’s Case with EFCC
I don’t like beating a fallen horse. If the EFCC decides to make their findings public concerning the investigation of the former Director General, it will be their decision. She has been busy trying to exonerate herself through newspaper writings but EFCC has not made any statement. And it is not for me to pronounce her guilty or innocent either. But she shouldn’t have been referred to EFCC in the first place if there was no prima facie case against her. But I am mindful of the image of PTAD as an organization and do not want to run it down. We are trying to make the agency a responsive and dignified agency and I should not be seen to be running down an organization that I am heading. However, we have already documented what happened and forwarded them to EFCC. I told you that we had issues with data and record-keeping and those are some of the things that she is being accused of. And these are issues for which contracts were awarded and never executed. These are some of the things we sent to EFCC. The question she should answer is whether those contracts were executed. Those are the issues but I do not want to dwell on them since we have handed them over to EFCC. We should just draw a line and move forward. That is why we have been quiet on our end. It is left for EFCC and herself to clear themselves.
Scamming of Pensioners
We have placed several adverts, warning pensioners from patronizing touts and also against paying money to anybody to help them process their papers. We also have call centres for people to make direct enquiries. If you are computer literate, you can make email enquiries. We are also now trying to link up with the call centre of the Head of Service. We spent a lot of money to do the link up so that pensioners will have a wider means to contact us. And we have been telling them through their unions. In fact, I am going to do radio jingles very soon to warn people not to pay to anybody. If we contact you for records, we will contact you on how it will get to us. We have online medium that pensioners can use. We have state offices where they can submit them. We will never ask you to pay a dime but we still find some people who will say some people are asking them to pay money. Even enlightened people are falling for such scam. A lawyer once approached me saying that someone asked him to pay for his mother in law to be verified and I asked how a lawyer should fall for such. And when you hear the way they present the issues, if you are logical and not greedy, you shouldn’t fall victim. For instance, if someone tells you that PTAD is about to pay you N10 million, you are supposed to know if you are entitled to that amount in the first place.
Our telephony system makes it difficult to track people. I have been working with Department of State Security Service (DSS) and all the phone numbers that people give me I forward to DSS to track but up till now, they have not been able to apprehend anybody. It is not easy to track people. We pay about N16 billion pensions monthly. It is a lot of money.
Allegation of holding two positions
It is not fair for anybody to accuse me of holding two offices. I am a director in the office of Accountant-General of the Federation. It was because of the mess created in PTAD that I was seconded there as acting Director-General. You can see than I still maintain my office in the Accountant-General’s office and whenever a substantive Director-General is appointed, I will return to my office. But up till now, no substantive Director-General has been appointed.
Airtel Africa Gets $194m for Mobile Internet Connectivity
By Adedapo Adesanya
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has announced a loan to the tune of $194 million to Airtel Africa to help connect millions of new subscribers to mobile internet in six African countries.
This will help to support universal and affordable broadband access in Africa and the opportunities that come with increased connectivity.
IFC will provide six of Airtel Africa’s subsidiaries with local currency loans totalling $194 million. The new financing facility is in line with Airtel’s Africa strategy to increase debt within its operating companies.
According to data from GSMA, less than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s population had access to mobile services at the end of 2021, while only 28 per cent of the population had access to mobile internet. GSMA also estimates that by 2025, the value added by mobile technology and services is expected to reach almost $155 billion annually.
The financing facility has a tenor of eight years and will support Airtel Africa’s operations and investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Republic of Congo and Zambia, where the banking landscape and access to local funding remain largely underdeveloped.
IFC’s loan is supported by co-financing from institutional investors through IFC’s Managed Co-Lending Portfolio Program (MCPP). IFC’s loan in Zambia is supported by the Local Currency Facility of the International Development Association’s (IDA) Private Sector Window.
Speaking on this, Mr Segun Ogunsanya, Airtel Africa CEO, said, “I am very excited to announce the signing of this new facility with IFC. Not only does this facility align with our focus on improving our balance sheet through localising debt within our operating companies, but it also supports our commitment and our ability to meet very strict ESG criteria in demonstration of the continued execution of our sustainability journey.
“I look forward to working closely with IFC in the coming years and to exploring further opportunities to cooperate together to support the economies and communities where we operate,” he said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic made mobile connectivity even more urgent for both social and economic development. Helping more people connect to affordable and fast internet networks is a priority for IFC in Africa, especially in the continent’s lower-income countries. The partnership with Airtel Africa will help achieve this,” said Mr Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa.
IFC’s digital strategy in Africa aims to enable ubiquitous, reliable, and affordable connectivity. This includes investing in the growth of independent tower operators, data centres and broadband, as well as supporting mobile operators primarily in fragile and conflict situations (FCS) and Low-income International Development Association countries (LIC-IDA).
As part of IFC’s loan facility, Airtel Africa has committed to comply with the applicable requirements of IFC’s Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability and has put in place a dedicated Environmental and Social Action plan.
This will further strengthen the company’s commitment to transforming lives across the communities in which Airtel operates and will provide clarity on how Airtel can help address inequality and support economic growth across Africa.
NNPC Signs MoU With Ghana, 4 Others to Boost Gas Supply
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with five additional African countries for the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project.
A statement from the oil firm disclosed that the countries are Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Sierra Leone.
The signing, which took place in Rabat, Morocco, marks yet another significant step in the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline project execution, which seeks to boost the energy drive of the continent.
Speaking at the event, the GMD of NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, commended NNPC’s partners, ONHYM, who have diligently worked with NNPC Limited through the years to bring the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project to the limelight.
Mr Kyari said it was comforting to witness the steady growth of the project, especially with the inclusion of NNPC’s counterparts and key institutions from other African countries, through the execution of the relevant Memoranda of Understanding.
He recalled that on September 15, 2022, NNPC Limited and ONHYM signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ECOWAS Commission in Morocco, adding that this event came a month after NNPC signed additional MoUs with Petrosen of Senegal and SMH of Mauritania.
He said: “Today, we will be attaining another feat by signing five MoUs with the national oil companies and relevant entities from Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Sierra Leone.
“From the inception of the project to this stage, concerted efforts have been made by the governments of Nigeria and the Kingdom of Morocco, which led to the very commendable achievements recorded thus far.
“As the strategic vision of our great leaders gains momentum, I would like to express our appreciation to King Mohammed VI of Morocco and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria for entrusting NNPC Limited with this strategic project.”
The NNPC boss stated further that the African continent stands to benefit immensely from the execution of the project, which extends beyond the supply of gas to energise countries along the route.
Petrol Stations Sell N270 Per Litre in Lagos as Queues Recede
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Some petrol stations in Lagos are selling premium motor spirit (PMS) to consumers at a pump price between N215 per litre and N270 per litre, Business Post reports.
A tour of filling stations in some parts of the metropolis by this reporter showed that the long queues witnessed a few weeks ago are gradually going shorter.
A number of petrol stations visited in the Alimosho area of Lagos State are selling the product to motorists but at a price above the approved rate of N170 per litre.
At a fuel station opposite Rauf Aregbesola Medical Centre, Okunola, Egbeda, the product was sold at N250/litre to consumers, while in the Ayobo area of the council, it was sold between N250/litre and N270/litre.
At Iyana Ipaja, most of the petrol stations in the area dispensed fuel between N230 per litre and N250 per litre, and in the Shasha area of the state, a petrol station around barracks sold the product at N215 per litre last Friday, though it had a few consumers jostling to purchase the product because of its cheaper price.
It was a similar situation at a filling station in the Akowonjo area of Lagos State, where a long queue disrupted the flow of traffic.
However, on the Island, petrol is sold at most petrol stations at a price slightly above the official pump price.
Last month, long queues began to reappear in Lagos, and it took several days before the government explained to Nigerians the reason for the scarcity of the product.
In a statement last Wednesday, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) urged Nigerians to remain calm as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited had imported PMS to last 34 days, noting that the scarcity was caused by a disruption in supply.
“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) has imported PMS with current stock levels sufficient for 34 days.
“Consequently, marketers and the general public are advised to avoid panic buying, diversion of products, and hoarding,” the agency said, adding that there was no plan to increase “the price of PMS during this period.”
The scarcity of fuel allowed black marketers to make more money from consumers who were desperate to purchase petrol for their cars and businesses. The product was sold for as higher as N10,000 for 20 litres at a price of N500 per litre.
But at the time of filing this report on Tuesday, most of the sellers of the product in jerry cans were out of business and were mostly not seen on major roads like last week.
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