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A lament for NNN and other pensioners

Much of the news about the wellbeing of pensioners in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world in the past week is discouraging. This is inspite of recent praiseworthy activities in pension management in the country.

One of the discouraging stories is of the abysmal failure of an overwhelming majority of states in Nigeria to fully embrace and sincerely implement the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for their workers.

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The extent of the neglect of pension matters and the future welfare of retirees in the states was highlighted by a report from the National Pension Commission (PenCom) affirming that only seven states, which are not named here, out of the 36 in the country, are implementing the scheme by making due remittance of pensions to  workers’ Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs).

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They are equally funding their accrued  rights regularly. I thought that Jigawa state was in that group of states that treat pensioners with respect and in a caring manner. The PenCom’s list of compliant states excludes Jigawa, although the state government’s treatment of pensioners is commendable.

It is unfortunate that the states that are not remitting money for pension into their workers RSAs are violating some of the provisions of the Pension Reforms Act (PRA) 2004 as amended, and at the same time respecting their laws which provided for the payment of huge amounts of money as severance package for Governors, members of the State Houses of Assembly and political appointees.

The regime for sanction provided in the PRA 2014 for failure by employers to remit contributions to RSAs is so mild starting with a letter of advice and payment of not less than 2% of unpaid contribution, that the habitual defaulters do not take it seriously.

Last week, this column urged the Federal Government through PenCom to copy the introduction of smart card for pensioners by the Lagos state government. Now, the states are hereby urged to emulate the Federal Government which cleared the accrued pension rights of federal Contributory Pension Scheme retirees in the sum of N67 billion, by simply remitting the outstanding billions due to their workers.

Emulation is the best way as all possible sanctions against the states, including imposing a fine of up to N500,000  on those defaulting in the case of existing system for 90 days, is not strong enough to make them behave decently. This is lamentable.

Another lamentable case is the reported failure of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) to pay the outstanding 11 years pension arrears of retirees of the New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna. The retirees claimed that payment of the outstanding arrears was approved and were  assured of early payment by PTAD. But instead of full payments, they were paid for five months only.

The 470-strong NNN pensioners however, praised President Muhammadu Buhari for approving funds to pay their arrears of 11 years, and commended the Minister for Finance and the management of PTAD for enrolling them on the defined pension payroll.

A disconcerting report by Reuters from says that China’s pension fund will be inadequate for the country’s pensioners in the next few years. The pensioners constitute over 17 per cent of the country’s population. The population is ageing rapidly and the workforce dwindling fast.

Another sad pensioner’s case from abroad concerns one Stephen Smith in the United Kingdom who was wrongly denied benefits, but which will now be used to pay for his funeral.

The 64 year old died just after winning a long battle over the benefits payments of more than £4,000.

“In cruel twist of fate, that money he was wrongly denied will now be used to pay for his funeral, which will be held at Anfield Crematorium on Friday, 3 May, 2019,” the report ends.

 

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