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Chuks Udo Okonta
Pension sector regulator, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and operators under the umbrella of Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp) will be heading to Appeal Court to challenge the order given by the National Industrial Court, asking Sigma Pension Limited and PenCom to allow a retiree, Rakiya Girei, access to withdraw 50 per cent of her Retirement Savings Account (RSA), within 30 days.
Reliable sources from PenCom and PenOp have told Inspenonline that the order would be appealed after proper examination.
According a source from PenCom, the order will be appealed just as a related case that is before the Appeal Court.
The source noted that it was expected that the on going appeal, if granted should put to rest issues on access to lump sum, that is contrary to what was provided in the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.
“Regarding the judgment of the National industrial court, we are studying same and will revert in due course.
What we can say now, however, is there seems to be a misunderstanding with regards to the application of mortality tables in retirement planing and pensions in general.
“The use of mortality tables are used globally in relation to pension planning. This is not peculiar to Nigeria.
“With that said, this said judgment will appealed,” a source from PenOp submitted.
The National Industrial Court had yesterday, ordered Sigma Pension Limited and PenCom to allow a retiree, Rakiya Girei access to withdraw 50 per cent of her Retirement Savings Account (RSA), within 30 days.
The judge, Justice Benedict Kanyip, delivering the judgment day also declared that failure and refusal of the defendants to yield to the legitimate request of the claimant to withdraw 50 per cent of her RSA was a violation and negation of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Kanyip further declared that the action of the defendants against the claimant on gender ground as discriminatory and gross infringement of the 1999 Constitution.
The court therefore ordered the defendants to jointly and severally pay the claimant the sum of N10 million being the 50 per cent of her RSA from the N20.2 million of her total saving within 30 days.
From facts, the claimant, Girei had submitted that following her retirement from the Federal Civil Service in 2019, having attained 60 years mandatory retirement age, she requested the payment of 50 per cent lump sum from her RSA.
She further stated that the defendants refused to honour her request but rather proposed 31.3 per cent of her RSA based on her gender.
The Claimant’s Counsel, Olusola Egbeyinka argued that the defendants cannot place reliance on gender categorisation to deprive the claimant her legitimate pension benefits.
The Counsel also said that such statutory provisions in the Pension Reform Act cannot get the favour of the court and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought in the interest of justice.
In defence, the first defendant, Sigma Pension Limited maintained that the parameter of gender in the Guideline on Programmed Withdrawal Template cannot be said to be discriminatory as envisaged in the constitution.
Sigma Pension Limited also argued that its actions in the circumstances leading to the suit were in legal compliance with the extant laws and Guidelines of the PenCom and urged the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
In similar argument, PenCom also submitted that by virtue of the Constitution and the Pension Reform Act, the life expectancy for a woman is longer than that of her male counterpart.
The defendant therefore opined that more funds would have to be set aside for programmed fund withdrawals for the claimant to cater for a continuous source of income throughout the remainder of her life.
The court after the evaluation of submissions of both parties, however held that the 25 per cent withdrawal threshold allowed by the PRA related only to those who voluntarily retire, disengage, or are disengaged from employment.
The court in addition reiterated that the question of the Sigma Pension fixing the claimant’s lump sum withdrawal at 25 per cent of the claimant’s RSA had no basis whatsoever under the Pension Reform Act.