• Monday, July 15, 2024
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NASS to summon SGF, AGF, finance minister over N400bn pension liabilities

pension contributions

Joint Committees for Establishment and Public Service of the Senate and House of Representative Committee on Pensions have vowed to summon the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Accountant General of the Federation and Minister of Finance over pension liabilities put at over N400 billion said to be crippling Nigeria’s Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).

The legislators expressed concern over inability of retirees to access their pensions over non-payment of accrued rights, non-regular remittance of monthly pensions, and non-funding of Pension Protection Fund by government, saying this could not be taken for granted. Federal Government workers who retired since December 2018 to date are yet to access their pensions.

This follows the non-payment of their accrued rights from the old Defined Benefits Scheme, making it impossible for the Pensions Fund Administrators (PFAs) managing the CPS to commence payment of their pensions.

Ibrahim Shekarau, chairman, Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, and his counterpart, Hassan Rurum, chairman, House Committee on Pension Matters, made the commitment on Monday at a three-day retreat organised for the lawmakers by the Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp) taking place in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

According to Shekarau, pension payment at the Federal or State level should be treated as a first line charge, and any government that does not take this as a priority does not deserve to be there.

Shekarau, it would be recalled, established the CPS in Kano State, when he was the governor, and accumulated N9 billion in pension trust fund at the end of his eight years tenure.

“We have realised this. The Pension Commission has brought this to our knowledge and my Committee has written a letter to the Senate President and he is concerned, and I believe my counterparts at the House of Representative will also do the same.

“I am sure and to be fair to Mr President, he is not aware of this, so we will engage the executive to understand what the problem is and find a lasting solution to it.

“The president may not know about this because as the chief executive he has one million and one issues and cannot be bothering himself about salaries and pensions. When salary is paid, when salary is not paid, unless is brought to his attention.

“We want to pursue this, and actually if this is the only thing the 9th National Assembly will succeed in achieving we would have done a lot for this country,” Shekarau said.

Hassan Rurum in his contribution said, “I have made a recommendation, that the two chambers have to invite the Minister of Finance, Accountant General and Secretary to the Government of the Federation for them to come and tell as why government is not meeting its 10 percent contribution to pay accrued rights of the pensioners now around N400 billion.

“I also do not think that the president is aware of this, so we want o here from them.”

Rurum promised that the Joint Committee would give it all the attention it deserved to ensure that retires are paid their pensions as at when due.

Aisha Dahir-Umar, acting director-general, PenCom, earlier in her keynote address, said in the last 15 years had made tremendous success in membership, which grew to 8.85 million participants, while the pension fund assets under management were valued at N9.58 trillion as at the end of September 2019.

“The number of retirees under the CPS as at 30 September 2019 amounted to 298,614. Out of that number, 227,400 retirees are on programmed withdrawal and 71,214 opted for annuity. In the same vein, death benefits had been paid to 59,057 beneficiaries. These statistics are clear evidence that the CPS has greatly improved access to retirement benefits for employees in both the public (Federal and State Governments) and private sectors,” she said.

Dahir-Umar, represented by Ehimeme Ohioma of the pension commission, however noted that CPS was not without its challenges, the primary ones being inadequate funding of the Retirement Bond Redemption Fund (for payment of accrued rights of retiring Federal Government employees) and agitations by some agencies of government to pull out of the CPS.

Aderonke Adedeji, president of PenOp, said certain developments in the industry had proved rather challenging.

“This is especially in the area of perennial agitations and efforts in certain quarters to fragment the scheme and the industry. Some other challenges include compliance in general as well as lack of funding of accrued rights by the federal Government.”

She however called on the legislators to not only protect the gains of the pension reforms, but to also deliberate on ways to make it more efficient in order to capture more Nigerians and enable them benefit from what some contributors are already enjoying.

MODESTUS ANAESORONYE, Uyo