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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)  Pensioners’ Welfare Association has called on the bank’s governor to review its members’ pensions in accordance with an agreement entered into in 2017.

The association made the call in a statement signed by its Chairman and Secretary-General, Mr Bayo Ademola and Mr Felix Obi, respectively.
 
The statement was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Friday.
 
“The primary purpose of this letter is to formally register our displeasure at the apparent lack of will on the part of management to implement the two-point agreement reached with CBN pensioners."
 
“We cannot understand why the CBN is dragging its feet in implementing the agreement it reached with its pensioners almost a year ago, while our people are dying largely due to inadequate financial capacity to get good medical care,” it said.
 
The association said that CBN management and its pensioners agreed that the apex bank should review pensions whenever emoluments of its workers were reviewed.
 
“The last upward review of pensions in the CBN was done with effect from March 1, 2010,  almost eight years now."
 
”Even if it decided to use the five-year maximum period, another pension review was due  on July 1, 2015."
 
“Within this period of almost eight years, we were reliably informed that the CBN upwardly reviewed the emoluments of its serving staff thrice without extending same to pensioners,” it said.
 
The association said that the parties also agreed that the upward review of pensions would help to bridge the gap between old and new CBN retirees.
 
“This is very necessary because any further or future application of a uniform percentage  increase in pension will further widen that gap and escalate the level of injustice,”

 

The pension industry has undergone rapid transformation in slightly over a decade largely due to reforms that saw Nigeria offsetting billions of unpaid pension liabilities and accumulating N7.52 trillion under the contributory pension scheme (CPS) as at the end of December, 2017. The National Pension Commission (PenCom), currently headed in acting capacity by Aisha Dahir-Umar, had over the years regulated the contributory pension scheme, growing membership to slightly less than eight million members. Despite these achievements in the nation’s pension industry, there are key policy issues affecting pension and retirement in the country that are still in limbo. One of such policy issues is the transfer window yet to be authorised by PenCom in the contributory pension scheme in the country. The Pension Reform Act, 2014 provides that an employee may, not more than once in a year, transfer the Retirement Savings Account (RSA) from one Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) to another without producing any reason for such transfer. Section 13 of the Pension Reform Act 2014 also provides that, “subject to guidelines issued by the commission, a holder of a retirement savings account maintained under this Act may not, more than once in a year, transfer his account from one Pension Fund Administrator to another.” Despite this provision, PenCom is yet to authorise PFAs to allow RSA holders to transfer their RSAs from one PFA to another. The implication is that RSA holders whose PFAs are underperforming in terms of investment of their savings are stucked with such PFAs as they cannot move their funds to PFAs with better history of high returns on investment. When contacted, a source within PenCom explained that the Commission is being meticulous on the transfer window to ensure that contributors are not affected. The source said the Commission is cleaning up the database of RSA holders to ensure that issues such as duplications and misinformation are fixed to pave the way for RSA transfers. Secondly, minimum pension guarantee is also in limbo as PenCom is yet to clearly define what retirees can earn as minimum pension just as there is minimum wage in the country. Section 71 of the Pension Reform Act 2004 (now amended 2014) provided for the establishment of a minimum pension guarantee for all workers who have contributed for some years but have not accumulated enough to have a minimum pension at retirement. Section 71 of the Pension Reform Act 2004 (now amended 2014) provided for the establishment of a minimum pension guarantee for all workers who have contributed for some years but have not accumulated enough to have a minimum pension at retirement. For the smooth operation of the minimum pension guarantee, Section 82 subsection 1 of the Pension Reform Act 2014 provided for the establishment of pension protection fund to provide minimum pension guarantee for contributors who have insufficient funds in their retirement savings account as at retirement. The Act requires the federal government to fund the pension protection fund from an annual subvention of one per cent of the total monthly wage bill payable to employees in the public service of the federation and returns from pension fund investments. The Fund is also expected to be funded from the annual pension protection levy paid by the National Pension Commission (PenCom) and all licensed pension operators at a rate to be determined by the commission from time to time. However, findings show that there is no defined minimum pension guaranteed at the moment under the CPS. On minimum pension guarantee, the source said PenCom has been working on it. Thirdly, accrued right, which is duly backed by law, is another issue affecting the contributory pension scheme negatively. The pension Act requires that government should pay the accrued rights of workers who transited to the contributory pension scheme in addition to the savings in their RSAs. To ensure that government pays the accrued rights, PenCom came up with a policy that workers entitled to accrued rights cannot access their RSAs until government pays their accrued rights into such RSAs and this policy has left many retirees without benefits months after retirement. The last time the government paid accrued rights was in December, 2016, a development that has left retirees who left active service in 2017 unable to access their benefits. There have been calls for PenCom to review its policy and allow retirees access to their RSAs as they await their usually delayed accrued rights. The source said the problem is not with PenCom but on the government and that PenCom has been consistently nudging the government to release funds to settle the backlog. The source revealed that PenCom’s effort led to the recent release of the accrued right of those who retired in January and February 2017. The source further said it was not possible to allow retirees access RSAs as the accrued right is usually higher than the contributions accumulated in the RSAs. Micro-pension scheme and access to contributory healthcare are also two issues that are in limbo in the nation’s pension industry. For a while now, PenCom has been on the verge of rolling out Micro Pension Plan (MPP) to guarantee financial security for informal sector players as well as boost Nigeria’s pension assets to over N20 trillion by 2020. The pension Act expanded coverage of the CPS to the self-employed and persons working in organisations with less than three employees. However, the rollout remains in limbo just as retirees are taken off the National Healthcare Insurance Scheme (NHIS) at the point of retirement when they need healthcare the most in their lives. The source in PenCom explained that the Commission is still trying to come up with a guideline to regulate micro pension as it affects people in the informal sector. The source said the informal sector is largely unstructured and unregulated unlike the formal sector of the economy and it is on the basis of this that PenCom is being careful in putting together the guidelines.

 

Some retired staff of Union Bank have accused the management of not paying their pensions 11 years after they left service of the bank.

The staff number 6,748 said the pension arrears now amount to about N42.77 billion. 

The retirees under the aegis of Grand Progressive Association of Contributory Pensioners of Union Bank of Nigeria also accused National Pension Commission (Pencom) of complicity for refusal to sanction the bank, for non-remittance of pension funds contrary to Pension Reform Act 2014 Section 11 Sub-section 3(a) and (b). 

A statement by the president of the association, Yohanna Sodo and secretary, Augustine Ikaan at the weekend in Abuja, explained that Union Bank remitted only N30.51bn out of N73.281bn leaving a balance of N42.77billion. 

The management of the bank is required to offset the balance of Legacy Pension and accrued rights, which ought to have been remitted to the Retirement Savings Account (RSA) of the ex-workers in compliance with Section 11 Sub-section 1(c) of the Pension Reform Act 2014. 

 

A national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, has urged former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to join the club of retirees and take their pensions.

Tinubu said this in an interview with State House correspondents on Tuesday after he and a chieftain of the APC, Bisi Akande, met behind closed-doors with President Muhammadu Buhari.

He was reacting to the statements by Obasanjo and Babangida in which they advised President Buhari against seeking reelection in 2019.

The former governor of Lagos State described the statements by the two former leaders as shadows.

He asked the duo to allow the present generation of leaders move the country forward, saying, however, that if interested, they could participate in politics.

"I don't address those shadows. We should let our former presidents join retirees' club and take pensions, but they can participate in our politics if they are interested. It is a free world, but this freedom is not served a la carte. But they should allow us to move our country forward. It is a challenge to every Nigerian," he stated. Tinubu described his appointment by Buhari as head of the APC reconciliation committee as a very strong political challenge.

President Buhari had last week appointed Tinubu to lead the APC committee that would reconcile aggrieved members of the party.

Asked how he felt about the assignment, Tinubu responded thus: "Well, l feel greatly honoured with the mutual confidence that the president has reposed in me which is a very strong political challenge. We have started in earnest. He has given me free hand to put coercion, confidence and trust in the party.

"Democracy is about conflict resolution process. You can't do it without resolving conflicts. We can't build it without understanding the conflicts and sources where we are coming from. But we want to leave the country with a legacy. It's not about Mr. President. That is what he's telling the country. It's about our country, and no other choice to democratic tenets than through political party platforms.

"He (Buhari) is one of those rare beings around the country, around Africa who had experienced both worlds: he fought a battle to save Nigeria and came to politics to save Nigeria. Very rare people have such an opportunity in their lives time and that's what we talk about; legacy. And where we have all the challenges, do what we should do. I'm enjoying the challenges so far."

The APC national leader said the party has a better chance to win the 2019 general elections which, he assured, would be conducted in a most transparent and democratic manner.

Asked what the chances of the APC are in 2019, Tinubu exclaimed: "You are asking me an obvious question! I belong to this party. My commitment is to this party. We have a better chance and we are strongly determined to prosecute election in a most transparent and democratic manner and we will win."

A Pensions Fund Administrator, Sigma Pensions, has urged Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) to key into voluntary contributions so that the operators can have a retirement savings. 

The Vice President, Business Development, (West) Sigma Pensions, Mrs. Mabel George, said this to over 10,000 SMEs at the Connect Nigeria SMEs E-business fair 2018 in Lagos yesterday.

She said: “We are very aware that it is important that they are able to contribute into the scheme. As long as you have a registered business, you are able to come into pensions and do a voluntary contribution.”

She said SMEs could come under the micro pensions to make contributions at a voluntary rate to suit their income.

Mrs. George who spoke on the issues limiting SMEs from growth, while proffering  an array of solutions to enhance growth of SMEs was received by a rounding applause. 

 “We found that most people start off their businesses and when we talk about pension, people become unresponsive. So what should be important to you is starting off a business, have a health management scheme and most importantly, you must have a pension scheme. 

“At Sigma Pensions, as a PFA for over 12 years, we want to see SMEs, businesses, start-ups thriving in their businesses,” she said.

SMEs sector in Nigeria is largely regarded as the driving force behind the country’s formal and informal sectors’ economic growth since they serve as sources of innovation, creating numerous jobs and employment to people with requisite skills in order to generate revenue for growth.

 

Comrade Oseni Onalo is an ex-staff of the defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). In this exclusive interview, he explains how he has been eking a living without pension following the commercialisation of NITEL. He says without family support, he would have been dead by now.

 

Tell us your working relationship with NITEL?

I worked with NITEL from 1994 to 2006. I was the state Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Post and Telecommunications. I was working with NITEL when all of a sudden, the government came out with a policy that they wanted to commercialise the place. They sold it to Transcorp in 2006. They disengaged us from the service. 

What happened to your disengagement and retirement benefits of NITEL staff caught up in the commercialisation of the company?

We were paid partially in 2007 for five years but we talked about live benefits which we have been struggling for. You may have seen us sometimes barricading the Bureau of Public Enterprises but unfortunately we have not been getting anything.

How has life been without life benefits of your service at NITEL?

From 2009, I couldn’t pay bills any more. I moved my family to the village. As I speak to you now, I stay in the village doing nothing. Life has not been easy. My children have been out of school. In fact, I’m frustrated.

What is your perception of the pension industry in Nigeria?

Before now, I know that pensioners have not been finding it easy but I want to believe that now that we have PTAD, it will change things for good. Otherwise, it was not easy for pensioners. 

The Federal Government verified all ex-staff of NITEL and MTEL preparatory to their being placed on the pension payroll. What is your thought on the verification? 

 

I have some level of confidence in the verification but what gave me fear is that I don’t have my figures. I don’t know how much my monthly pension is; I don’t know the backlog and I don’t even know when to be paid. If I owe you, you will begin to think that I have gone for verification and have been paid but I don’t know when I will be paid. They just gave me a paper. No figure on it.

How do you access benefits for retirees in Nigeria? There seems to be more emphasis on pension than other retirement palliatives.

In the developed world, pensioners are first citizens; they are catered for medically and otherwise. But, here it is a different ball game entirely. You tell me you have mortgaged my pension to one mortgage bank which I have no access to and I am dying. Life has not been easy. Government should look at the pensioners because these people have contributed meaningfully to the development of the country. They need to be taken care of as number one citizens.

Left for me, I seek for divine intervention of God. But I appeal to government that if they are going to pay us, they should be fast about it. People are dying. Somebody staying in Lagos heard there was verification in Lagos but he chose to come to Abuja to be verified to avoid any problem. On his way to Abuja, he had an accident and died. By the grace of God, I want government to come into our case. As a matter of fact, it is very urgent. You can see people paralysed with stroke. It is because of what people are going through. 

Do you have anything else to say?

Yes. We actually borrowed money to go for verifications in different places. It takes anybody who believes in you to give you money to travel to anywhere for verification. This is because if you stay in a place and you are not working, nobody will agree to give you N5,000 as loan because the person is not sure you can pay back. That is the situation and that is why I plead with government to help us. 

 

 

 

 

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