Activist: Navy must explain what happened to PO Oloruntoba’s money
We’ve paid him his entitlements -Navy
A naval rating, Petty Officer Ayodele John Oloruntoba (rtd), has called on the Nigerian Navy to explain why he and his family were kicked out of their official quarters without paying his gratuity and benefits.
His wife, Mrs. Faith Oloruntoba, said she and her husband were half-dressed on April 21 when eight naval men swooped on them in their apartment and forced them out. Faith said her husband, who has worked with the Nigerian Navy for 15 years, was retired on medical grounds. Doctors described his health condition as Bipolar Affective Disorder, defying permanent solution.
The illness has forced Oloruntoba to be on a cocktail of 21 drugs daily. He has been on the drugs now for 12 years. Each morning, Oloruntoba will take seven drugs, another seven in the afternoon and later at night. If he misses taking his drugs, the consequences are dire.
He would go temporarily insane, stripping himself naked and strolling round Gowon Estate, where the Nigerian Navy gave him and his family two-bedroom quarters. Doctors advised that Oloruntoba should be allowed to retire, with all his entitlements and benefits paid 100 per cent. Since his retirement, Oloruntoba said he had received missives from the Navy that he should vacate the quarters.
The father of four said he was expecting his gratuity to be paid by the Nigerian Navy, before receiving the eviction letters. Recollecting the event of April 21, Faith said that she and her husband went out for evangelism; after they returned, he took his drugs and went to sleep. Faith made sure the kids didn’t disturb him; noise and stress usually trigger his mental problem. She explained that she removed her blouse and brassier, while wearing only her trousers, she went into the toilet.
A few minutes later, she heard someone knocking on the door to the two-bedroom flat. There were eight naval men. They were shouting that the door should be opened. The children, scared, started crying.
Faith quickly pulled up her trousers. The blouse was in another room. However, by the time she had stepped out of the toilet to find out what was happening, the men had entered the apartment through the window, after allegedly breaking it. The noise also woke Oloruntoba.
When he saw the naval men throwing out his furniture, he wanted to challenge them. But Faith feared the worst; she didn’t want him to lose it.
She implored him to stay in the room with the kids. She claimed that she was thrown out into the streets, without blouse and brassier. Oloruntoba, also half nude, barely had time to cover himself with a piece of cloth before all the family members were marched outside. Faith said she wasn’t worried about other naval men families in the barracks watching and snickering at them. This wouldn’t be the first people that would stare at her nakedness, she said.
She had twice; on two different occasions, gone stark naked to attract attention of top naval officers, believed to be illegally detaining her husband. Today, Faith, her kids and her husband are living in a church, while waiting and praying for the Navy authorities to pay Oloruntoba’s entitlements.
Faith said: “Even in the church, we sleep on the bare floor. One of my kids is beginning to run temperature. I’m sure it’s because of where we sleep.” According to Faith, since Oloruntoba’s retirement, eating and buying his drugs have been difficult. It was so bad that she had to change the kids’ school, but later finally withdrew them.
To make ends, she hawks sachet water and soft drinks in traffic. Faith said: “I cry every day. People mock me every day. I have borne everything as a Christian. Residents in the barracks no longer allow me to fetch water in the public tap because of my husband’s health condition. I go far, to the compound of a civilian to fetch water. I hawk sachet water and drinks.
I changed my children’s school because of fees, but I still can’t meet up. My kids have stayed at home for two years. I borrowed everything to cook.
“The Nigerian Navy said it has paid my husband his gratuity, but we have not received any money, except N2 million, which we believed is not for us. The money is still in the bank.
My husband’s retirement money is more than N2 million. Some naval personnel told us that the N2 million couldn’t be my husband’s gratuity. He was a Petty Officer before his retirement.”
Oloruntoba explained that his medical condition, which led to his early retirement, started in 2003. He introduced himself as Petty Officer (PO), working at Material Logistics (ML0053). He joined Nige
rian Navy 15 years ago and worked in Port Harcourt. Oloruntoba was later transferred to NNS Wey, Ojo Barracks, Lagos in 2003. He said: “I was taken to outside duty. I was a seaman. I was posted to the house of an Admiral. Robbers used to target the Admiral’s house often. The stress was too much. I had a psychiatric breakdown.
Since then, every two years, I would have a breakdown.” Oloruntoba was taken to a naval hospital, where a consultant, Dr. Omotosho, carried out a medical examination and tests. The doctor allegedly advised that Oloruntoba should no longer be posted out of Lagos.
He recounted: “In 2010, I was posted to Abuja, I had another crisis. I was brought back. In 2012, I was posted to Bayelsa State, I had a crisis. I was brought back to Lagos.
The last posting was Onne, Port Harcourt in 2014. I had crisis. The
postings kept catching me unawares. I would be given letter and ordered to report immediately.” Oloruntoba explained that he once tried to remind some of his bosses about the doctors advice that he shouldn’t be moved out of Lagos, but, “they said I was playing with my job.” When he was posted to Abuja, he slept in a noisy crowded hall. He said the signal demanded that he should leave for Abuja immediately.
He couldn’t get his drugs and had another crisis. He said his superior there, wrote a damming report about him. He said: “My boss, a captain, wrote a damming report about me. He said I was using Indian hemp. He said I should be dismissed.”
When he was brought back to Lagos from Abuja, he was taken back to Navy Hospital, where many more tests were carried out on him to determine if he had smoked Indian hemp or not. He spent three months in the hospital. He recollected: “Different doctors carried out tests on me, including Doctor Omotosho. A psychologist also tested me. None of them found any trace of hard drugs in my system.
They all agreed that I was stressed. They said I had bipolar disorder caused by stress. Four doctors confirmed it. Dr. Omotosho recommended that I should be retired and given 100 per cent disability.
This means that all entitlements with my mates of same rank should be given to me. But I wouldn’t work anymore.
“In 2015, I was posted to Underwater, Ojo, Navy Town. It was too far from my home at Gowon Estate. I used to leave home by 4 a.m., shuttle three buses and return home by 8 p.m. It was because of that stress that my wife resigned.” While working at Underwater, Oloruntoba applied for loan with four other naval men. The other applications were granted, but not Oloruntoba’s.
He said: “The woman working with the bank, Hannah, said I was trying to defraud her bank. That I had been retired and I still came to apply for loan.
That was the first time I heard I had been retired. I’m an architect; I joined the Navy with Upper Credit. I got to know about my retirement from a civilian, can you imagine!” On October 9, 2015, Oloruntoba and his wife went to Central Pay Officer, 23 Point Road, Apapa, Lagos State, to authenticate the retirement story.
When he got there, one of his course mates told him that his retirement letter had been ready since January 9, 2015.
The letter stipulated that he should be retired on medical grounds. At Point Road, he went to SOI cash. According to him, the woman in charge, a sub-lieutenant called Ishaku, said his salary would soon be stopped.
Oloruntoba said it wasn’t right since an official letter of retirement hadn’t been given to him. He said: “I wanted to find out what was going on. Ishaku ordered some naval men to drag me out. I tried to resist and my hand hit a mirror.
The mirror got broken. The CO, whom they said wasn’t around, suddenly appeared and ordered my arrest. I was locked up at NNS Beecroft, Apapa.’’ Faith ran from pillar to post, trying to see how she could get her husband released.
One day, Faith left home as early as possible with her four children and made a beeline for Point Road. She had been going there for weeks, but nobody had ever attended to her.
On this particular day, she stripped and stood naked at the gate.
She said: “I had been going there for weeks. They didn’t attend to me. So, I removed my pants and bra and stood naked there, demanding the release of my husband. I stood there from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with my children. We were hungry and tired.
The bosses were peeping at us from their windows, but they didn’t attend to us. Despite that, they refused to release my husband.”
Oloruntoba said: “I was locked up for two months. I was told that my wife went to Point Road and stripped, demanding my release. I was told she had been going there for weeks.”
Faith went to her pastor, Paul Mathew, who told her to enlist the help of a lawyer, Adekunle Ojo. Faith got another church member to go with her to NNS Beecroft, Apapa, on another day.
There, she stripped again. This time, naval men around there, were asking what was wrong. Many of them demanded that Oloruntoba be released. He was released. Oloruntoba said: “I was sent back to Ojo reference hospital to meet Omotosho.
All this while, there was no salary. On May 27, 2016, Navy credited my account with N2 million. I went to the bank to find out what the money was meant for.
The bank said it was my gratuity. I told them my gratuity should be more than that.” The couple went to complain to his lawyer, Ojo, who advised them not to touch the money.
The money was placed in a fixed deposit. Oloruntoba said that Ojo agreed to take up the issue of ensuring his full gratuity was paid. Oloruntoba alleged that Ojo demanded 30 per cent of any money Navy would later pay him as gratuity.
He said: “After two months, we went to Ojo to ask him how far. He said Navy would pay my full entitlements through the Ministry of Defence calculation.
On December 13, 2016, Pastor Mathew called us that Ojo went to Abuja to represent me. I was surprised. Was I not supposed to go with him to Abuja?”
Oloruntoba alleged that after the Abuja journey, getting Ojo on the phone became difficult. He said the lawyer wouldn’t pick his calls.
In January, Oloruntoba said, that Navy started troubling him to quit the quarters. He said that Ojo called him that he had a letter from Navy.
The letter said Oloruntoba was no longer entitled to Navy quarters, but entitled to NHIS for life. He got the letter four days to the eviction date.
On April 21, naval men swooped on Oloruntoba’s family members and threw them out, according to him. One of the senior officers with the evacuation team told the petrified family, that information available showed that Oloruntoba had been paid.
Oloruntoba felt that since Ojo was his lawyer and had gone to Abuja over his matter, it’s possible he might have answers for him.
Oloruntoba went to report Pastor Mathew and Ojo to the church’s top hierarchy. Oloruntoba said he was confused over what had happened to his money.
He is oscillating, suspecting Ojo, Mathew and the Nigerian Navy. He said: “All I want is my money.
The N2 million sent to me by Navy is not my money. I want my full entitlements of 100 per cent as it is given by Navy.”
Faith narrated: “If my husband had been paid, I wouldn’t continue to live in that barracks. Living there is a constant embarrassment. Whenever my husband had crisis, he would strip.
If I walk pass, people would be talking about me. Do you think if I have money I would continue to live in that sort of environment? We would have relocated.”
A human rights activist, Pastor Darlington Ajitemisan, is assisting the couple in the search for the truth.
He said: “The couple invited me into the matter and I have taken it up. The couple’s fundamental rights had been breached. We must understand the psychological mind of someone like John.
“The Navy forcibly entered his apartment. They forced their way into the house by breaking and entering through the window.
That is malicious damage and breaking and entering. So many important items and documents were taken. What John got from serving the nation is brutality.
He gave the nation 15 years of his life. We also need to know what the N2 million is meant for. Navy should pay his full gratuity, standard for someone of his rank. If Navy has paid to the lawyer, let it bring documents to show payment.”
Reacting to allegations that he might know something about Oloruntoba’s gratuity, Ojo said that he assisted the couple pro-bono and wrote a series of letter to the Nigerian Navy and other appropriate quarters, urging that Oloruntoba’s gratuity be paid.
He later received letter from Navy, explaining that the gratuity accrued to Oloruntoba, based on his years of service, was actually a million plus, but Navy decided to pay him N2 million.
Ojo said that he had already given the couple the letter and other documents. Ojo, who said that he was only trying to assist the couple, after several pleadings from people, said he regretted rendering help.
He said that the couple had reported to several people, including Femi Falana’s Chambers. Ojo said: “I asked what they would pay if we eventually get the full gratuity, they said 30 per cent. I didn’t ask them for 30 per cent.
They were brought to me by Pastor Mathew. They also reported Mathew to the general overseer of the church until he had to resign. It’s this same Mathew that had been assisting them financially.
I went to Abuja four times by flight over their matter without collecting a dime. I sent a lawyer to Ojo Barracks with my money.
Where did I go wrong that they go everywhere reporting me? What do they want from me?” “They went to Femi Falana’s Chambers to report me.
A lawyer there told them that there was no way a lawyer could collect their money from Nigerian Navy.
When the matter was dragged to the general overseer of their church and I presented letters I had written in pursuant of the matter, people in the council told them I had tried enough for them.
The council asked if I wanted to charge them for all the work I had done, I said no. I don’t want their money.”
Ojo, however, showed our correspondent some of the letters received from Nigerian Navy Headquarters and Ministry of Defence on Oloruntoba’s behalf.
One of the letters, dated March 15, signed by La Nimyel, Commodore for Chief of the Naval Staff, states in part: “I am further directed to inform you that extensive investigation of your client’s allegations showed that he is entitled to gratuity of N1,163,238.12 and monthly pension of N73,436.75 contrary to his claims.
Nevertheless, he was paid the sum of N2,045,817.12 by the Nigerian Navy as gratuity.”
Another letter dated January 27, also signed by La Nimyel, states in part: “I am to further intimate your client that he is entitled to access medicare from any National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) accredited hospital as well as for members of his family post-retirement.
On the other hand, he would be required to give up his official accommodation post-retirement as soon as possible in line with extant terms and condition of service for ratings.”
A letter from the NN, dated February 23, and signed by HS Joseph, Commander for Chair, also notes in part: “It is pertinent to state that the rating was discharged with 100 per cent composite disability, while his monthly pension was calculated based on the same percentage as contained in the Section 2, Table A of Armed Forces Pension Bill 2011.”
However, Oloruntoba said the lawer had not given him any document to show that the N2 million was his gratuity.
Attempts made by Sunday Telegraph to hear from Nigerian Navy concerning Oloruntoba’s allegedly summary eviction and non payment of gratuity proved abortive.
According to many naval personnel, issues that have to do with eviction and gratuity payments are usually handled in Abuja.
Thus, our correspondent called the Nigerian Navy Spokesman, Captain Dahun Jahun.
He said: “If he’s saying his gratuity has not been paid and he was evicted, let him provide his documents.
We can’t act on hearsay.
Better still, you call the Command Information Officer, Naval Western Command. Honestly, if he doesn’t back what he’s saying with documents, it remains a mere allegation.
He knows what to do and where to go. Go to Western Naval Command. At my level, it’s not every minutest matter I’ll know.”