• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Dr. Chioma Nnenna Ejikeme: A dynamic woman of substance putting vision to work at PTAD

Dr. Chioma Nnenna Ejikeme: A dynamic woman of substance putting vision to work at PTAD

Without mincing words, Nigeria is endowed with exceptional women who stand out in their fields or by virtue of the positions they hold and have positively impacted the nation and its image. These women can be found in both the public and private sectors displaying exemplary leadership roles in their various positions.
One of such distinguished women is Dr. Chioma Nnenna Ejikeme, the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD). A seasoned professional of high repute who has demonstrated a high degree of competence and professionalism in her responsibilities over the years.

Distinguished by competence and sustained by integrity, Dr. Chioma Ejikeme was appointed the Executive Secretary of PTAD on August 20, 2019, and she remains one of the few leaders of government agencies that perform their statutory duties without fear or favour. Today, many of those who know about her antecedent have not been surprised with the remarkable steps she has been taking since was called upon to put vision to work at PTAD 3 years ago.

An experienced public administrator with patriotic vision, she is a graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka where she obtained a Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MB.BS) degree in 1982, and she holds a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Lagos 2002.
As a Medical officer in the Nigerian Air Force Medical Services for close to 20years, she was part of a team that, coordinated, improved and facilitated health care delivery services within the Nigerian Airforce Medical space. In 1997, Dr Ejikeme took a leave of absence from the Ministry of Defence to take up appointment as Commissioner for Health in Anambra State.
Some of her achievements as Commissioner for Health, Anambra State include the establishment of a Central Drug Revolving Fund for the State Ministry of Health, the establishment of a Traditional Medicine Board in the State which was the first to be established in the history of Anambra State. She also re-organised the existing revenue collection procedure to ensure an effective and affordable health care delivery system.

In a period where retirement was seen as the beginning of another burden to bear, the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate’s (PTAD) was established to address the numerous pensioners’ complaints that bother on issues such as non-payment of monthly pension, short payment of pension and gratuity, removal of name on pension payment voucher, non-payment of harmonized pension arrears, irregular payment of federal pensions amongst others.

The Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate’s (PTAD) establishment as a Federal Agency is in compliance with the provision of Section 30 (2) (a) of the 2004 Pension Reform Act now repealed and re-enacted in Section 42 (1) of the Pension Reform Act 2014. The Act provides for the consolidation of the Old Defined Benefit Pension Schemes for pensioners who did not transit to the Contributory Pension Scheme and their subsequent management by PTAD.
Over the last nine (9) years, PTAD has reformed and revolutionized Pension Administration using Technology. It has embarked on service innovations which have been pro-active and intentional.

It has done this by automating and streamlining its core operational processes of verification, digitization of pensioners documents, computation, pension payments and complaints resolution. These processes are: Biometric Verification of Pensioners through field verification across the geo-political zones between 2015 – 2019; Building from scratch (1st of its kind) a digitized, centralized, comprehensive and credible database of pensioners and their pension records under the Defined Benefit Scheme in Nigeria; Automated Computation (Calculation) of Pension Benefits; Payroll due diligence and payments using an integrated automated system; Automated payment processes using the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) to preserve the sanctity of pension funds; Creation of a complaints resolution and management portal to support the client service management system; Commitment of dedicated, professional and highly motivated staff and a work culture that drives PTAD’s reform successes

In addition, PTAD Set-up of an Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit to prevent pension fraud; Launched a Service Charter; detailing PTAD’s service contract with pensioners and complaints resolution timelines; Due diligence during the on-boarding and pay rolling of pensioners; Introduction of the “I Am Alive” Confirmation solution to verify pensioners’ status of aliveness at regular intervals.

With a move to end expensive field verification of pensioners, PTAD launched the Pilot phase of the “I Am Alive” confirmation solution in October 2021. The web-based platform is designed to enable verified Pensioners easily confirm their aliveness from the comfort of their homes or neighborhood using either a smartphone or a computer system without the stress of traveling for periodic field verification. PTAD commenced the Pilot Phase with 50,000 pensioners randomly selected from the four operational departments in the Directorate and the six geo-political zones.

This exercise has successfully come to an end and we are ready for the full roll-out. PTAD has trained Pensioners, Pension Desk Officers of the various institutions and organisations where our pensioners retired from, as well as Pension Union Executives from the six geo-political zones on the Solution. The training is to enable them assist pensioners who are unable to carry out the “I Am Alive” confirmation on their own. Deployment of the I Am Alive confirmation solution for database cleanup.
Others are, Improved welfare of pensioners: Access to health insurance for pensioners; Increased coverage across Nigeria – opening more State Offices; Paying of the balance of N56BN for offsetting, NITEL/MTEL and the estimated N61BN outstanding for the payment for ex-PHCN(NELMCO) and Nigerian Railway Corporation; Harmonization of pensions to enable pensioners who retired on the same grade level and step under the same organization at different years earn a unified pension for equity; Implement Constitutional provision of five yearly Pension increment due in 2024.

As a measure to reduce the hardship and stress of verification, PTAD has been able to provide multiple verification centers per geo-political zone to ensure crowd control. Created a simple 4-step process from arrival to completion of verification, to minimize wait time and stress. Provided conducive environments and refreshments (Lunch & Water) for pensioners. Provided wheel chairs, stand-by ambulances/First Aid for emergency situations. Mobile verification for the infirm, ill and disabled pensioners.
In addition, PTAD has deployed Mobile Verification Teams to ensure no qualified pensioner was left uncaptured. These teams went to pensioners’ homes and hospitals to verify them. And have visited over 80 different cities, towns and villages and countless hospitals across the entire nation in sometimes hazardous circumstances.

Under the leadership of Dr. Chioma Nnenna Ejikeme and through the unwavering support of President Muhammadu Buhari who has been adjudged by pensioners as the most pensioner-friendly President in Nigeria, and his administration which has made Pension an unwritten first-line charge; the able supervision of the Honorable Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning and our Regulator PenCom , PTAD’s management team has been able to achieve the following: Full implementation of the TSA which has ensured the sanctity of pension funds and enshrined transparency in Pension payments; Regular monthly payments of pension without fail since inception as and when due. From Jan 2015 to Dec 2021 PTAD has paid N610BN in monthly pensions; Payments of long outstanding arrears to pensioners across all the pension departments, most significantly the huge arrears inherited from the defunct/privatized agencies; Regular engagements with Pensioners and other Stakeholders across all the six geo-political zones, to update pensioners on activities of the Directorate.

PTAD has maintained a high standard of integrity, accountability and efficiency in its contribution to the national economy through the regular payment of monthly pensions as and when due, transparent and prudent settlement of inherited liabilities. The public outcry and complaints from pensioners has quietened over the years. There is increased trust in the Government’s commitment to the welfare of pensioners and its ability to professionally administer pension payments. The economic livelihood and welfare of thousands of pensioners under the DBS has improved as thousands of pensioners hitherto dropped from the payroll or who had never received payment are now being enrolled and have a regular means of sustenance. Post verification, thousands of irregular/ineligible beneficiaries have been dropped from the payroll thereby reducing government liability. Pensioners have the assurance that they will no longer be required to come out for field verification exercises which are very costly to administer.

Being the CEO of an agency like PTAD is surely not an easy assignment, but stakeholders have affirmed that Dr Ejikeme has continued to demonstrate the competence and strength of character needed to drive the agency’s team of professionals towards its goals.