The commencement of payment of pension benefits by Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) to Nigeria Police officers who fought on the side of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War from 1966-1970 is a commendable initiative by the present administration.
At the end of the Civil War in 1970, officers of the Nigeria Police, military and paramilitary who fought on the side of Biafra were dismissed from service. This was contrary to the spirit of no victor, no vanquished and reconciliation espoused by the then General Yakubu Gowon administration.
Since their unfortunate dismissal from service, the affected officers and their families have had to live with the unpleasant agony of being denied their benefits. The various administrations in the country, both military and civilian, were unable to resolve this intractable problem which had remained a sad chapter of the Biafra saga.
However, their hope was restored in 2000 when President Olusegun Obasanjo granted them presidential amnesty, which commuted their dismissal to retirement. But the process of getting their pension benefits had been quite tortuous and frustrating.
For 17 years, these aged and frail former police officers had to undergo series of verification exercises conducted by the now defunct Police Pension Office, which not only lacked the capacity but unnecessarily over-bureaucratic in handling pension matters.
What makes their matter very interesting and unique is that 47 years after the civil war ended and 17 years after the amnesty was granted, they now have every reason to celebrate. This is because the Pension Trust Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) has embarked on payment. The exercise which was flagged off in Enugu on Friday, October 20, involved a total of 162 officers who are still living and 57 next-of-kin of their dead colleagues who were paid their pension benefits. Though this was coming 47 years after the civil war, it was better than never.
One must acknowledge the magnanimity of President Muhammadu Buhari for approving the payment to the ex-Biafra Police officers. This is a clear demonstration that the president has a listening ear and also willing to accommodate the interest of all Nigerians irrespective of tribal or ethnic background.
Equally deserving commendation is the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Barrister Sharon Ikeazor, for the prompt and efficient resolution of the pension palaver. The executive secretary, who is barely one year in office, has shown that she is capable of providing the required leadership that will redefine pension administration is Nigeria.
To a large extent, those who are clamouring for restructuring or crying of marginalization are doing so because they feel that the country has not given them a sense of belonging. But the commitment of PTAD and the Buhari administration in the payment of pension benefits to ex-Biafran police officers and those who fought on the side of Biafra in the ill-fated 30 months civil war would certainly go a long way to build bonds of unity and accelerate genuine reconciliation among the people.