The Federal Government on Friday said the payment of pension benefits to retired Biafran police officers was aimed at ‘bringing closure’ to the painful legacies of the Nigerian Civil War.
The payment of the pension was flagged off at an elaborate ceremony in Enugu on Friday.
The affected police personnel were part of the Nigerian Police Force before the outbreak of the war but found themselves on the Biafran side when the war commenced.
They were initially dismissed from service after the war before the former President Olusegun Obasanjo granted them amnesty in 2000 by converting their dismissal to retirement with full benefits.
Despite the amnesty, the ex-policemen have yet to receive their full entitlements, until President Muhammadu Buhari approved the payment of their pension through the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate.
There was jubilation and merriment at the venue of the event, which was attended by hundreds of the surviving retired Biafran police officers and the Next of Kin of the deceased ones, as well as their family members.
Executive Secretary, PTAD, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, disclosed that 162 officers who have never been on the payroll, and 57 Next of Kin who have not been paid their death benefits, would be paid on Friday, in the first batch of the exercise.
Another set, comprising about 155 retired Biafran police officers, who are on the payroll but were being ‘short paid’, would be paid in the next batch as soon as their pension benefit computation is concluded, Ikeazor added.
The PTAD boss explained that the payment of the pension benefits was part of measures taken by the Federal Government to heal the wounds of the Civil War.
“This represents another decision by the current Federal Government to bring closure to the painful legacies of the Civil War, and indeed a clear demonstration that President Muhammadu Buhari is indeed a father to all Nigerians and that his administration’s reforms under PTAD will ensure that Nigerians who spent the productive years of their lives serving their nation will not experience difficulties in getting their pensions,” Ikeazor said.
Chairman of the Association of Retired War Affected Police Officers, the union of the retired Biafran police personnel, Mr. Matthew Udeh, explained that the payment of their pension benefits came after a long period of agitation.
Speaking to journalists, he said, “I was a police officer of the rank of ASP before the war ended. We happen to have served in Biafra during the war. After the war, some policemen and soldiers who served in Biafra during the war were dismissed. We felt that was unfair because other federal civil servants who served in Biafra during the war were reabsorbed. So, from 1970, we started agitating for justice.
“We agitated through all the heads of state that took over after the war, until the second coming of Olusegun Obasanjo as a civilian president. On May 29, 2000, he granted us amnesty by formally retiring us.