Abuja - The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has set up a working group to harmonise positions on the payment of pensions to retired military personnel in the country.
This is contained in a statement by the Special Adviser to the Minister, Paul Nwabuikwu on Wednesday in Abuja.
The statement said the group was made up of a high-level team from the Federal Ministry of Finance and representatives of military pensioners.
It said the group would be chaired by the Director General, Budget Office, Dr Bright Okogu, and would include the Chairman Military Pension Board and representatives of the military pensioners.
Others according to the statement are the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission as well as staff of the Federal Military of Finance.
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It said the move was the outcome of a meeting between a team from the ministry led by Okonjo-Iweala and military pensioners.
The pensioners had gathered at the ministry earlier on Wednesday to protest against delays in the payment of their pension arrears.
The statement said that military pensions were increased by 33 per cent but that pensioners wanted 53 per cent arrears.
"The pensioners who acknowledged that they have been receiving a 33 per cent increase on their pensions since August 2013 demanded that the increase should be 53 per cent.’’
They argued that the 53 per cent increase would put them on the same footing with their colleagues who were in active service.
"Dr Okonjo-Iweala had delayed her attendance at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting to engage the pensioners in an honest discussion.
"The government team included the Permanent Secretary of the Finance Ministry, the DG Budget and the Chair of the Military Pensions Board," the statement said.
The statement said the minister told the pensioners that the implementation of the 53 per cent increase in public sector wages in 2010, left government with a very high recurrent budget.
This, according to the statement poses a significant funding challenge for the government.
"The ministry, with the support of President Goodluck Jonathan, has been working hard to address the challenges.’’
It noted that soldiers who served the nation deserve the greatest honour and consideration.
"It was because of this that the Federal Government has implemented a 33 per cent increase in military pensions since August 2013 following a recommendation of a government committee," it said.
The statement said the minister gave assurance that the pension arrears would be paid and proposed that the payment would be in trenches.
"Her proposal for the establishment of the working group to discuss and agree on the level of the arrears as well as the schedule of payment was accepted by the pensioners.
"The pensioners nominated representatives to join the group.
"The representatives of the military pensioners later thanked the minister for giving them accurate information and giving them a listening ear," it said.