Kudos to Federal Government for paying 81 months pension arrears, By Kelvin Adegbenga

Posted by News Express | 19 November 2016 | 3,693 times

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One would think that after years of service to the government, retirees should have some pension to live on. It is probably too much to ask various government agencies to pay retirees a living wage, considering the low-level of economic activities in Nigeria, but payment of pension to retirees should be a right after they put in required number of years of service.

Some of these pensioners have endured abuses, and disadvantageous work environment while in service. Now, out of service they have to put up with months of waiting for their paltry gratuity. The worst part is that the pension backlog runs into months and years, without any sense of urgency by the government officials who are supposed to know better.  The media have been awash with news of many pensioners collapsing in various parts of the country; some even reportedly dying while standing on queue to collect their meager stipends. The story is the same from the military to the police and civil servants.

The unending nightmare of fraud perpetuated on pension accounts is inflicting untold hardship and pains to retirees. We read from daily newspapers and online media how their entitlements are embezzled by serving government officials whose responsibility is to manage the pension fund. Recall that Federal Government enacted the Pension Reform Act of 2004, which mandates establishment of contributory pension fund for private and government employees for payment of retirement benefits to all employees. Subject to section 8 of this act, the new pension system shall apply to all employees in the public service of the federation and Federal Capital Territory. In the case of the private sector, the act mandates organisations with at least five employees or more to establish pension fund for such workers. The new pension reform also requires pension funds to be privately managed by licensed pension fund administrators (PFAs). To ensure credibility and discourage frivolous application, pension fund managers must be a limited liability company, with evidence of paid-up capital of N150 million. Besides, they must demonstrate professional capacity to manage pension funds retirement benefits.

Unfortunately, high-level corruption has been so widespread in Nigeria, that it constitutes a near insurmountable obstacle to any reform effort under previous administrations. But since the Buhari administration was inaugurated on 29th of May, 2015, I knew pensioners will get their entitlement without stress, and free from corruption as witnessed in the past. It will be recalled that as at August, 2016, the Buhari administration has paid 81 months pension arrears to retirees from the Police, Customs, Immigration, Prisons and the civil service pensioners. The government paid arrears which were incurred from 33 per cent pension increment, but left 87 months outstanding. The 33 per cent pension payment came as a fall-out of the upward review of the minimum wage to N18, 000 in 2010.

It will be recalled that the Senate Committee on Establishments and Public Service, chaired by Senator Emmanuel Paulker, who visited the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, on oversight functions gave a detailed breakdown of paid pension arrears and outstanding months, to journalists. According to the document, the parastatal’s pension department had its 12 months arrears paid, leaving 30 months outstanding; the civil service pension department was paid 24 months, leaving 18 months outstanding. Three months of 33 per cent increment were paid to police pension department, leaving outstanding of 39 months to Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Department, which had all its 42 months arrears paid off.

I sincerely commend President Buhari for paying the pensioners. The pensioners who voted for ‘change’ are not regretting. I am using this medium to call on state governments to emulate the Federal Government, by paying all pension arrears outstanding to pensioners, as they laid the foundation for our great country’s peaceful atmosphere we are enjoying.

•Adegbenga writes from Port Harcourt:kelvinadegbenga@yahoo.com


Source: News Express

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