Monday, 17 November 2014

This Story Ended Well Because Of Total Strangers

March 2011
I lost my dad.

March 2012
My sister began to process his benefits which had accrued over time while he was ill. After submitting his death certificate to the Probates Office in Lafia (Nassarawa State), she was asked to pay some money to collect an affidavit confirming his death and to provide original copies of a pile of documents they needed to process his pension.
She was then directed to take the same stack of documents to Pension Board somewhere in the outskirts of Abuja. What was supposed to be a straightforward process became a nightmare and because she didn't live in the state, it was even worse. She had to travel to and between Lafia, Abuja and Lagos over 10 times during this period. Whenever she heaved a sigh of relief that she was done, she would be called back to either Lafia or Abuja for one flimsy reason or the other.

I remember how traumatic it was for her having to zig zag through the corridors of the Pension Board submitting various documents as those in charge yelled at grieving next-of-kins as though it were a parade ground. 

After the exhaustion of constant travel without any tangible result, we had to inform a family friend who was a Colonel in the Nigerian Army who then called the man in charge of Finance at the Pension Board and asked him to attend to my sister immediately. The man in charge asked for the same documentation she had submitted at the Probates Office and earlier at the same Pension Board where he worked. 

She was directed to the UBA Branch Manager in Abuja who asked her to close my dad's account which he opened in Lafia and open one with them as that was the authorized bank for transfers. She went to Lafia to do as she was told after which she was handed over to a woman at the Pension Board that seemed bent on frustrating any next-of-kin who showed up.

She returned to Lagos armed with the woman's number and a determination to follow up. And she was persistent with her calls and text messages. The woman was also persistent in ignoring both; she never picked up and never replied any messages. 

She was called and asked to bring his death certificate again, evidence of next-of-kin, proof of change of name since she was now married and then an affidavit. At this point my sister had almost spent on transport, what we were hoping to get from the Pension Board.

After my very unrelenting sister wouldn't give up calling the woman, she sent a text letting my sister know she could actually pursue 'the case' from Lagos. Why no one thought to mention that earlier, we would never know.

August, 2014
Yes, you read the date right. The process had taken a whole 2 years and 5 months. But this is where it got better. It got better because my sister met a man called Segun and his colleague Mafe, employees of UBA somewhere in Lagos, the bank where she was asked to open an account for the funds to be transferred. They were disappointed about the handling of her case and the sheer amount of time it had taken her to get to that stage of the process. She watched as they went up and down the stairs doing what needed to be done to fast track the funds transfer. According to her, every time she showed up at UBA to follow up (Which was almost daily) she would find my father's file on Segun's table. With a smile that never looked strained he would tell her, 'Don't worry, I'm on it." And he truly was.

August, 2014
Less than a month after Segun and Mafe got on the case, my sister called to tell me she had received the money. It was a very important moment and a teary-eyed one for all of us. We were relieved and very happy. The process had taken it's toll on my sister and our collective purses, on her time and emotional health and on every single one of us who had to endure her rants and encourage her not to give up. 

So why did we go through all that stress? Because it was important to our father and we had promised him that we would see it through. No matter what it takes, you don't break your promise to a dead man.

There are a thousand and one threads to be explored in this blogpost but I wrote all of this just to say a heartfelt thank you to Segun and Mafe of UBA Nigeria Plc, employees who were just doing their jobs but did it with a compassion and persistence that is rare to find in these parts. In 3 weeks, they successfully closed a process that had taken well over 2 years. God bless you both richly.

P.s - I honestly think the processes at the Probates Office and Pension Board is designed to frustrate any next-of-kin with enough interest to pursue a loved one's entitlements. It's designed to make one give up and very quickly too. There has to be a more effective method for pension administration in this country. It's the least we can do.

©Naomi Lucas


Oluwatosin michelle said...

I think the process of The Pension board being long,cumbersome and tiring is to frustrate the next of kin in giving up the pursue of pension of loved ones,so maybe they would share the money using underground processes. This is to show you how corruption has eaten deep into our bone marrow. But thank God for some faithful and loyal Nigerians who are willing to see that the crooked ones don't have their ways with their dirty plans.Thank you to Mr Segun and Mafe of UBA Nigeria Plc. God would continue to order your steps for putting smiles on people face.

Naomi Lucas said...

Amen o Oluwatosin. Thanks :)

opeyemi adediran said...

Condolences and congrats

Anonymous said...

this has been going on for a very long period of time and it will continue to until people are enlightened and know that they have other options aside from the pension board. Condolence on your father's demise and may God bless the two guys.

Anonymous said...

My advice to any retiree is to contact any insurance company that does annuity and seek advise from them. My grandpa almost had same issue although he was alive then but for a God sent neighbor who told my dad about insurance taking up the pension on his behalf and the process was fast compared to when my dad and grandpa were going up and down to process it.