• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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Pension assets threatened as National Assembly workers exits contributory scheme

President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent of the Bill establishing the National Assembly Service Pensions Board and exempting assembly workers, and others from the mandatory Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) less than twenty-four hours to his exit from power has caused major shock on the country’s pension scheme.

Exemption from the CPS means, Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) again would have to start returning pension assets of National Assembly staff in their management to the newly established National Assembly Service Pensions Board who will now manage the funds.

While this will not only deplete the size of pension fund assets under management, currently standing at N15.43 trillion as at the end of March 2023, it will mean loss of confidence if the National Assembly that made law on Pension Reforms and its amendment in 2004 and 2014 respectively, were taking this kind of decision.

A Statement by senator Babajide Omoworare, said in furtherance of the provisions of Section 58 of the Constitution and the Acts Authentication Act Cap. A2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.“The National Assembly Service Pensions Board (Establishment) Act establishes the National Assembly Service Pensions Board to administer the pension scheme for personnel of the Service and exempts the personnel of the National Assembly Service from the Contributory Pension Scheme.

The Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp) had drawn the attention of the general public to the “Bill for an Act to amend the Pension Reform Act, 2014, to Exclude/Exempt the National Assembly Service from the Contributory Pension Scheme and Establish the National Assembly Service Pension Board; and for Related Matters (HB 2025)” when it was passed by both chambers of the National Assembly.

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PenOp had stated unequivocally that the passage of this bill sets a dangerous precedent that will not augur well for hardworking Nigerians, working across the private and public sector, who depend on the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for retirement security and stability.

More particularly, PenOp expressed grave concern regarding the way this bill was passed. The passage of this bill seems to have been unnecessarily expedited and shrouded in secrecy with very little engagement and input from critical stakeholders—as it was passed during the National Assembly’s recess.

PenOp noted then that indeed, it is disturbing that this bill did not go through any public hearing, a key component of the legislative process that allows stakeholders to have their voices and opinions heard for possible inclusion in the process. If this was done, pertinent issues such as the amendment of retirement age, funding of pension liability, and the potential debt burden on government—all of which are affected by this bill—would have been debated and brought to the fore.

According to PenOp, the National Assembly prides itself as the heart of our democracy. Indeed, the halls of the National Assembly are the people’s halls. As such, it is extremely important that the legislative authority the National Assembly wields is in no way subverted to serve vested interests in passing anti-people legislation. The exemption of any agency or group from the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) holds grave consequences for the Nation’s struggling fiscal position and will potentially upend the retirement security of pensioners who have given their blood and sweat in service to our great Nation.

PenOp, had further considered the passage of this bill a procedural anomaly and legislative immorality, and so called on all well-meaning Nigerians to note this grave anomaly and join in calling on the National Assembly to reconsider its decision as well as enjoin the Executive and the Judiciary to outrightly condemn this action.