Reps split over bill to exempt National Assembly workers from contributory pension scheme

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The House of Representatives yesterday failed to agree over a bill to remove National Assembly Service Commission Staff from the contributory pension scheme (CPS).

The bill which was sponsored by Abdulganiyu Olododo seeks to create National Assembly Service Pension Board solely for the staff of the federal legislature.

At the third reading of the bill, Bamidele Salam, a member of the House raised some concerns.

Salam, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Pension, stated that the bill was not subjected to a public hearing before its passage, adding that similar bills had been presented and shot down due to the concern to protect the CPS.

“I do not see the need to exempt the National Assembly, as it will open the floodgate for different sectors. Our committee was not taken into consideration in coming to this stage,” he said.

Another member of the committee, Ben Mzondu from Benue State, said the committee was not given money for the public hearing despite making the request.

Giving clarification on the process, the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Hassan Fulata said the House withdrew the bill from the committee because it failed to carry out its assignment.

The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila sided with Bamidele and Mzondu.

“It cannot be one rule for one committee and another for other committees. There are so many committees, three, four, seven months [that] have still not submitted their reports. That motion should have included them. You cannot single out only this one,” Mr Gbajabiamila said.

Deputy Speaker Idris Wase disagreed with the comment by the Speaker on the bill. He said he was the one that presided over proceedings when the committee was discharged from the function, noting that the Speaker is giving the impression of division between them.

“I presided on the day this motion was taken. The motion was taken as members were seated. I disagree with this procedure. In the past, even yesterday, we discharge some committees that have not done their job. It is not the first time we are doing that.

“I don’t want it to be seen as though we are divided, for whatever reason; should it be that any day you are presiding, I can come up and say a,b,c you have done were done wrongly. Is that the way we should proceed? That is where we are going,” he said.

The Speaker, while responding to his deputy, asked him not to take things personal. He explained that a bill regarding pensions is too sensitive.

He ruled that the Committees on Pension and Rules and Business should interface on resolving the concerns.

Concerned Pension industry stakeholders while reacting to the development questioned the integrity of such Bill and are asking to who’s interest the Bill is meant to protect giving the fact that Nigeria’s pension industry has grown over the last 18 years since the Pension Reform Act (PRA) was initially enacted in 2004.

They are of the opinion that the Bill in question is inimical to the growth and successes the industry have recorded, noting that the “industry has ensured that the average Nigerian worker is able to retire in peace and dignity. The act brought about the professionalization of pension fund administration and the growth of the pension industry in Nigeria. There are many gains that the pension industry has achieved and there is a great need to protect these gains from individuals seeking personal gain.

“Over the last number of years, we have seen many actors try to reverse these gains, usually from seeking to amend the act that would allow groups of people to leave the scheme. These acts are typically done through legislative actions as certain groups sponsor bills to exit the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS)

“We are not convinced that this bill was passed in “good” faith. We also believe that an important bill of this nature, should go through the standard and due legislative processes. One of such processes is the convening of a public hearing where all stakeholders that are affected by the bill are invited to discuss and engage.

“All the stakeholders like the workers union, labour, the Pension Fund Operators, the Regulators, Employers of labour and other critical stakeholders were not engaged in the process. We are also aware that some principal officers of the House who normally should oversee the passage of bills were unavoidably absent, bringing the integrity of the process into question. We are forced to question whose interests this bill is geared to serve.

“It needs to be ascertained, why the bill was passed without the crucial input of citizens and stakeholders? This breach of sacrosanct legislative processes and the rather hurried passage of this bill, triggers serious concerns and should be revisited urgently in the interest of both National Assembly staff, the pension industry and the nation in general,” they advised.

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