Protests mar pension sector in 2015

The inability of federal and state governments to meet the needs and demands of pensioners resulted to several protests staged across the country this year.
Aggrieved pensioners staged the latest of such protests this Wednesday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, over four-month arrears of unpaid retirement benefits.
“We are owed from September to November,” the Chairman of Bayelsa State pensioners, Dr. Emmanuel Namatebe, reportedly disclosed as the reason behind the protest, which led to the blockage of major roads in the city.
Namatebe said, “We have not received alert yet but if the money is not paid today (December 23), it means that it won’t be paid till after Christmas.”
Pensioners had held similar protests in Imo, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Edo, Katsina, Benue, and Jigawa states during the course of the year due to government’s inability to meet their needs
In August, disenchanted retired workers grounded Owerri, the Imo State capital due to the non-payment of months of arrears of pensions and gratuities owed them by the state government.
One of the protesting pensioners held up a placard, which read: “The souls of the dead will not rest until their terminal benefits are paid to their next of kins.”
The state Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Gideon Ezeji, reportedly revealed that pensioners were owed 20 months arrears of pensions, while arrears of gratuities dated back to 1998.
Earlier in June, angry and feeble retirees took to the streets of Osogbo, Osun State as a result of seven months unpaid arrears of entitlements.
At the state’s House of Assembly, a pensioner displayed a placard with the inscription: “Pensioners are suffering, pay our pensions”.
Pensioners in Plateau State sometime in February blocked the entrance to the state secretariat demanding an upward review of their N5, 140 monthly pension to a more compassionate and acceptable sum.
The pensioners also protested the delay in payment despite the fact that they are among the least paid pensioners in the country.
The Daily Trust findings revealed that the pension crises ravaging most states of the federation are as a result of unpaid pension liabilities accumulated over the years and the refusal or delay of the state in transiting from the old defined benefit scheme to the contributory pension scheme (CPS).
For instance, during the maiden edition of the African Pension Award organised by the World Pension Summit – Africa held in Abuja recently, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, disclosed that his administration inherited a pension liability of N14.3 billion when he assumed office in May this year.
Similarly, in an interview with journalists recently in Abuja, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State said his administration inherited a pension liability of N11.8 billion as at the end of June this year. Realising that the system needed to be cleaned up, the Kaduna State government embarked on the verification of pensioners which resulted in the uncovering of a pension racket that costs the state N1.3 billion annually.
A statement issued by the state governor’s spokesperson, Samuel Aruwan, disclosed that 2,484 ghost pensioners were identified and removed from the pension payroll while a set of 1,404 were classified as probable ghost pensioners because while they managed to get verified, they curiously failed to pick their pension cheques.
At the federal level, the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) embarked on various verifications of pensioners captured under the old defined benefit scheme (DBS).
PTAD revealed that it discovered that the actual police pension liability is less than N10 billion, contrary to the N30 billion figure it inherited.In an interview with journalists in Abuja at the sideline of a workshop, the Director-General of the PTAD, Nellie Mayshak, disclosed, “What the verification has allowed us to do is to verify some of the claims that are in the books. The figure we inherited for police pension, for example, is in excess of N30 billion, but we know it’s less than 10b now.”
The exercise unearthed 3,000 ghost police pensioners on the payroll, a development which saved about N100 million monthly for the federal government.
In order to further cleanup the pensioners’ payroll at the federal level, PTAD announced a verification exercise for Customs, Immigration and Prison Pensioners across the country but the outcome is yet to be made public.Meanwhile, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) held the second edition of the World Pension Summit in Abuja this year as well as sensitisation conferences on the Pension Reform Act 2014 (PRA, 2014) in Enugu and Kaduna States.
A major scandal rocked the PenCom recently when the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, alleged that the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan diverted over N3.5 trillion pension funds through the Commission.Oshiomhole made the allegation in an interview with State House reporters in which he said the government diverted the pension funds to recurrent expenditure.“I saw a lot of analysis of how pension funds should be invested on infrastructure. You challenge the Pencom and the Ministry of Finance, you will discover that over N3.5trillion was drawn down by the previous government from pension funds to support recurrent expenditure, not to support infrastructure,” he had alleged.
In a swift reaction, the PenCom’s spokesperson, Emeka Onuorah, denied the allegation that it was impossible to divert any fund from the CPS as no single fraud had been recorded since the inception of the scheme.
On the implementation of the PRA, 2014, PenCom has drafted new set of investment regulations to enable Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) invest in infrastructure development as provided in Section 86 that pension funds can be invested in real estate development.
The investment regulation was in line with the Act which says in Section 85 that “pension funds and assets shall only be invested in accordance with regulations and guidelines issued by PenCom, from time to time.”
The PenCom set the minimum of N5 billion as the requirement for the investment of pension funds in infrastructure projects in line with the provisions of the Act.
Meanwhile, the PenCom is yet to open up the window for RSA holders to access some portions of their retirement savings to access housing mortgage as provided for in the new Act.
Finally, the Daily Trust investigation earlier in the year revealed that 31states are yet to put in place Group Life Insurance Policy for settling claims arising from the death of any of their employees.
The Section 5 of the PRA, 2014 requires every employer to maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of each employee for a minimum of three times the annual total emolument or pay of the employee and premium shall be paid not later than date of commencement of the cover.
The policy can be bought in favour of employees from any insurance company licensed to do so by the National Insurance Commission.
Analysis of a document obtained by the Daily Trust has revealed that only Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Niger and Rivers states have put in place the policy for their employees.

Daily Trust

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *