Sabiru Lawal is driving a new order of transparency and efficiency in the administration of navy pension, writes Jackson Ali
When Commodore Sabiru Abayomi Lawal assumed duty on September 18th, 2020 because the twenty-eighth Chairman of the Army Pension Board MPB), he got here with an attitude of efficiency. And it confirmed within the method he got down to reform operations at the board.
Clearly aware of the critical role such a board plays in the lives of retired army personnel and the entire army at large, Lawal served a clear intent at reforming the operations of the 46-year-old board.
Ever since he has kept faithful in his mission and vision of automating the administration and management of military pension in Nigeria. Certainly one of such measures being undertaken is his determination to electronically verify Nigerian army pensioners within and outside the nation.
Lawal believes that automating the processes will assist eradicate a number of human errors and unwholesome incidents that had dogged the operation of the board and stymied its efficiency at delivering the right service to the nation’s retired gallant army personnel both at home and in the Diaspora.
Nigeria has had challenges of grave proportion in its pension management and administration. Whether or not it’s the pension of civil servants, police personnel or the army, several hiccups have clogged the smooth administration of these pensions.
In the case of the civil service, there had been cases of aged grandparents and parents slumping and dying on the queue as they wait, sometimes in vain, for their pensions and gratuity. Incidents like this have made the civil service less enticing to many Nigerians especially the millennial generation.
The Nigerian army is no less different. Some Nigerians have canvassed for better pay and improved welfare for navy personnel due to the amount of work they do. Beyond the attraction of the uniform and its attendant privileges, what the army personnel dread probably the most is life after service.
The system is wired in such a way that as quickly as army personnel retires or leaves service through every other exit route, such an individual loses his or her place within the barracks. It’s worse for individuals who didn’t build their own house during service; equally hellish for those who made light of their pension contributions throughout service. They go residence nearly empty-handed.
Nigeria presently has about 300,000 military personnel striving to protect the territorial integrity of a nation of about 200 million people with a landmass spanning 923,768 square kilometres.
This is a far cry below the basic minimum recommended by the United Nations. It says only one factor: Our military personnel are over-worked, stretched for time, energy and emotion.
They, subsequently, deserve a greater deal, better pay, at the least basic comfort and an assurance that when the unexpected occurs (loss of life, etc) or the expected (retirement) there will always be a guaranteed substance to cushion the ache for their households. It’s the least a nation should do for a group of individuals that danger their lives to defend and shield others.
Therefore pension for the military, like any other agency or department, is a well-thought-out initiative. It gives hope for a good life after service. But, in the case of the navy – as with the police and civil servants – some personnel have been known to complain about the end-reward for their gallant service to their fatherland.
Some even agitate to quit the contributory pension scheme. This is largely as a result of the poor pay of navy personnel and the historical frustrations they go through trying to obtain their entitlements particularly in those days when their contributions were being managed by their employer – the federal government. These were the fears that the management of Lawal has come to remove.
Already, Lawal is building inter-agency synergy and forging partnerships with relevant players in the nation’s socio-economic landscape to shore up efficiency at the MPB as well as build the capacities of personnel within the board to engender a tradition of efficiency, transparency and operational integrity.
His determination to embark on Electronic Verification Exercise (EVE) has been described as a testament to the visionary disposition of his administration and management philosophy. The MPB is engaged in a partnership with eTranzact which will see the automation of the military pension in line with the dictates and paradigms of the twenty-first century.
In addition, automating the MPB operations will eradicate cases of late payment, omission of names, the fee to ghost retirees and sundry fraud.
This will likely also be why Commodore Lawal has recently become a target of the smear campaign and different sleight of males to tar him in uncomplimentary colour.
It’s a case of when you fight corruption, corruption fights back. However, the multi-discipline commodore has stuck to his gun, insisting on cleaning up the operations of the army pension board.
And it’s all so because his experience leads him to the job. Commodore Lawal flaunts a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Nigeria Defence Academy which he has topped with a Master’s degree in Business Administration (Finance) from the University of Lagos and Certificate in Public Financial Management in a Changing World from the extremely esteemed Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Education, USA.
He’s a member of the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants, Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria.
However, no matter the campaign of calumny to smear his status, Commodore Lawal should forge forward with the automation of the operations of the board starting with digital verification of pensioners.
This can be a smarter, cleaner approach to run a critical organ of the Nigerian navy if solely to remove the hardship and stress related to the previous system of manual/physical verification.
The navy, especially the retirees and those on the cusp of their service, should be happy with Lawal for his reforms and his avowal to birth a new order of transparency and efficiency within the administration of navy pension in Nigeria.
If he pulls by these reforms, he would have etched his title on the wonderful page of the nation’s army history. And yes, he can, given his pedigree of sterling performance at various stations before he was appointed Chairman of the MPB.