1 Retirees under the Contributory Pension Scheme across the South-West zone have called for the payment of their pensions and other entitlements immediately after they disengaged from the public service.
2 In separate interviews on Sunday with the News Agency of Nigeria in the zone, the retirees and other stakeholders said such payments would help in mitigating their hardship and also keep them active for more years before death.
3 NAN recalls that the Pension Reform Act, 2004 established the National Pension Commission (PenCom) as a body to regulate, supervise and ensure effective administration of pension matters in Nigeria.
4 Its functions include: regulation and supervision of the scheme established under the Act.
The main objectives and features of the Pension Reform Act, 2004 are: “To ensure that every person who worked in either the Public Service of the Federation, Federal Capital Territory or Private Sector receives his retirement benefits as and when due.
5 “To assist individuals by ensuring that they save to cater for their livelihood.
Commenting, Mr Onah Owoka, the Principal Legal Officer (PLO), National Judicial Council (NJC), said that retirees would definitely prefer to have their lump sum to be paid immediately after leaving the service.
7 Owoka said: “There is no gainsaying the fact that retirees will definitely prefer a total and final lump sum payment of their pension entitlement as against the monthly payments presently in vogue in both Defined Pension Scheme (DPS) and Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
According to him, before that is contemplated and enforced, it is necessary that retirement workshop being organised for retirees should be deliberately restructured to take longer period and intensive training.
9 He said that retirees should be taught relevant productive and creative vocational trainings and when concluded, the money released should be used to buy the needed tools for the trade.
11 “There are instances where the employer fails to remit the monthly contributions of both the employer and the employee and when complaints are lodged, the PFA complains of non-remittance by the government either due to inadequate budgetary provisions or late release of funds.
12 “This equally affects the monthly payments, but if this money is invested by the retiree himself, he will be in charge of his investment.
13 “Another very important consideration is the compulsion by the government that an individual funds should be managed by another on his behalf consequently, presenting him as unfit to manage his funds.
14 “This is done regardless of his objection to the unilateral decision, this is socialism in a Capitalist economy,” he said.
17 “However, the level of compliance leaves much to be desired.
18 “No civilised nation can afford to let its retirees suffer.
19 We have seen instances where pensioners died before getting their money.
20 Some waited hopelessly and never get paid.
21 They should be paid immediately,” he said.
22 Edema advised the government and leaders at all levels not to play politics with the issues bothering on pension.
23 “They must go beyond lip service and walk the talk.
24 “Government at all levels must give priority to pensioners the same way politicians pay themselves life pension after serving their terms in office,” he said.
25 In Osogbo, Mr Peter Adejuwon, a retiree from the Federal Ministry of Information, told NAN in Osogbo that there had been several calls by retirees on the need for prompt payment of their pension immediately after retirement.
26 Adejuwon explained that the level of compliance to the Pension Reform Act, 2004, as amended, had not yielded the expected results.
27 According to him, pensions and gratuities are being delayed for years before payment and such had also led to the death of many retirees.
28 “When you retired from active service, they delay you for a year or two and some for years before they pay them their entitlements.
29 “Many among us have died, while some of us need this money for drugs to keep us alive,” he said.
31 Opadokun said the idea of paying off retirees immediately after leaving active services would be a great relieve to them.
32 “We have been clamouring for this every time.
33 We have embarked on protest over non-payment of our pension arrears and gratuity with no positive results,” she said.
34 Opadokun, therefore, urged both the Federal and State Governments to always ensure that once civil servants quit active service, they should be settled immediately.
35 However, Mr Rotimi Omotoye, the Pension Desk Officer, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC), Ile-Ife, said that the Federal Government’s compliances with Pension Reform Act, 2004, as amended, was 100 per cent perfect.
36 Omotoye said there had been improvement from the old pension scheme and the contributory pension scheme.
37 He explained that while the old pension scheme was “pay as you go” and not funded, the new pension scheme is contributory and fully funded.
38 Omotoye said that government was making concerted efforts to ensure that retirees get their pension as and when due.
39 He called on retirees to make use of the seminars and training usually organised by government before leaving active service.
40 In Ilorin, Mrs Grace Idoka, a financial expert, complained to NAN that government had not complied with the Pension Reform Act.
Idoka said that retiring civil servants still have to wait for months before getting their money.
41 “I have a friend who had to ‘tip’ to get her money.
42 Imagine having to give out tips to collect her hard earned money.
43 “We are not talking about loans or grants here.
44 We are talking of pensions.
45 “As a pensioner myself, I cannot, but say that governments at all levels should be fair in dealing with us.
46 “I am not being owed, as a federal pensioner, but I feel for my other colleagues, especially those in the state and local governments.
47 It is not right to suffer with grey hair.
48 “There should be respect for this group of people, even, the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) should deal with pensioners with respect, consider their age and pay them on time,” she said.
49 Also, Alhaji Saidu Oladimeji, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Kwara chapter, appealed to the government at all levels to comply with the Pension Reform Act, 2004 as amended by the Federal Government.
50 Oladimeji explained that “Kwara Government is to be commended as it complies with some aspects of the reform Act.
“The government conformed in some aspects, in others, it doesn’t even touch it.
51 “So, we are just managing ourselves with the Kwara Government.
52 It sees us as beggars, forgetting that we are the state’s founding fathers.
53 “We are the ones who prepared the ground for them to become what they are today,” he said.
54 However, the Kwara NUP Chairman observed that compliance to the Pension Reform Act varies from states to states across the federation.
55 He explained further that pensioners needed to get their money immediately after retirement, saying that such feats are possible with the help of God and the political will from the government.
56 Oladimeji reminded those at the helm of affairs that they equally have a stake in the issues of complying with the 2004 Reform Act.
He said the union had been pushing for an increase in the minimum pension for retirees for the past three years, adding that they were still on it without any development.
57 “It only got to the Senate once and most of these committee members are retired officers like us, yet because they have other sources of living, they don’t take it as a duty to do the needful,” he said.
58 Oladimeji appealed to Nigerians still active in service to support them in their quests for implementation of the 2004 Reform Act, saying “whoever refuses and works against the union will soon face what we are facing”.
60 Fafeyiwa said he was not aware of any pension reform that makes it mandatory to receive pension shortly after disengagement from the service.
61 He added that only his gratuity was worked on and paid in a lump shortly after disengagement from the service.
62 Fafeyiwa said: “I don’t think the Ondo State Government is aware of any pension reform or perhaps it is just acting against the law.
63 “Some of my colleagues and I, who retired in 2019 did not collect our pension immediately after disengagement from service, except our gratuities.
64 “The government releases the pension to us monthly according to the percentage it feel it’s okay for it.
65 “If such pension reform is implemented, I believe pensioners will not be dying in the process of collecting their entitlement.
66 “The Federal Government needs to act fast on enforcing implementation of the pension reform to ensure that pensioners get what belongs to them as and when due and thereby save many lives,” Fafeyiwa said.
68 In their responses, they scored the state government very low.
69 One of them, Mr Bola Lawal, the Secretary, Ogun chapter of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), claimed that Ogun Government has not complied with the Pension Reform Act.
Lawal told NAN that every state was supposed to key into the law, saying, “reverse is the case with the Ogun Government”.
70 According to him, at the initial stage, the state complied, but somewhere along the line around 2006, it made another law to prolong implementation of the Pension Reform Act, 2004 till 2025,” he said.
71 “The state is currently owing 200 months unremitted pension deductions from the workers’ salaries.
73 “By the time they are going on retirement, they will have their benefits and have their pension paid regularly,” he said.
74 The secretary recalled that the Act stipulated that pension must be reviewed anytime workers’ salaries were increased.
75 He expressed concern that the state government had reviewed salaries about six times since the Act became operational, without recourse to pensioners, adding that some pensioners still earn as low as N5,000.
Lawal, who commended the Federal Government for strictly adhering to the provisions of the Act, appealed to the state government to do the needful as soon as possible.
76 Also, Mr Sikiru Ayilara, the State Chairman, Local Government Pensioners Association of Nigeria (LOGPAN), said that the state government had not performed well in complying with the 2004 Pension Reform Act.
Ayilara explained that there was initial compliance with the Reform Act during the Gbenga Daniel-led administration.
79 He said that the money being deducted from the service now was not remitted to the pension administrators, saying, “when the workers retired, there will be nothing to rest upon”.
80 According to him, they are deducting money; they do not remit it to the pension administrators.
81 “I do not even restrict myself to the Pension Act of 2004; the provisions of the Constitution are being breached when it gets to pensioners.
82 “I don’t want to talk about this reform again because the government is not ready to do what is right,” he said.
84 Lasisi said that the state government was owing “several months” of deductions from workers’ salaries, while it has also failed to contribute its portion.
85 He added that the law stipulated that the remittance must be effected seven days after deductions from workers’ salary.
86 “The implementation was faulty from inception.
87 “Gov. Daniel’s administration owed 25 months before he left.
88 Gov. Ibikunle Amosun only paid six months throughout his tenure, while Gov. Dapo Abiodun has not paid a dime during his administration since the implementation has been faulty right from inception,” he said.
89 Lasisi appealed to the state government, as a matter of urgency, to pay the backlog of the deductions and commence remittance of pension deductions as and when due.
90 “We all believe the implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme is the best,” he said.
91 However, Mr Seun Babalola, the Executive Director, Nigerian Life and Provident Consultant (NLPC), said there had been an appreciable level of compliance with the Act by the private sector and Federal Government establishments.
92 Babalola said that the adoption of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Systems (IPPIS) by the Federal Government had enhanced timely deduction and remittance of the pension fund of federal civil servants to the appropriate quarters.
94 The pension expert explained that the Act, among others, stipulated that any establishment which had three or more employees must comply with the pension law.
95 Babalola said that some private sector establishments were still not complying with the Act because of “unfavourable business environment”.
96 He said that the high level of compliance had made fund available to the government, because many of the pension custodians and administrators had continued to invest in the government Treasury Bills, which had proven to be safe investment, in spite of the low returns.
97 The pension expert also noted that the development had also helped to provide job opportunities for many Nigerians.
98 Babalola blamed the delay in payment of pension benefits at retirement on faulty documentation.
99 He said that many employees failed to notify PFAs about their retirement early enough to help the firm’s process the benefits.
100 “Employees should have no problems getting their pension benefits at retirement, because the law stipulated that it should be paid within five days upon approval by the National Pension Commission (NPC).
101 “One of the causes of delay, however, is that many employees failed to provide some of the necessary documents such as letter of employment, letter of resignation or retirement and the National Identification Number (NIN) to process their benefits.
102 “In some cases, delayed payment has been as a result of non-remittance of deducted pension funds by the employer.
103 “By arrangement, an employee is supposed to have notified the PFA six months before retirement for an easy process of the benefit, but many will come only at the last day.
106 They were of the opinion that the pensioners, having served meritoriously for 35 years or attained the mandatory 60 years, should get their terminal benefits immediately after retirement.
108 Sangotade, who claimed to have retired from a federal agency in 2019, said it took two years before his entitlement was paid, “but, before then, I resorted to selling off my properties as means of survival”.
109 “I went through a lot of difficulties during that period; I had to dispose some of my properties when things got out of hands,” he said.
110 Sangotade said the issue of late payment of benefits still remained a nightmare which requires urgent stakeholders’ attention.
111 Also, Mr Bode Afolayan, another retiree, said that the pension regulatory agencies saddled with pension responsibility, need to work extra mile in tackling the menace of corruption in the nation’s pension regime.
112 “There are lots of sharp and fraudulent practices being perpetrated in the pension system, most of which are reported dailies.
113 “For the system to work effectively, there is need to rid it of bad eggs so that the aims and objectives of the pension reform would be met to better the lots of pensioners,” he said.
114 Afolayan noted that funds meant and allocated for pension payments should be used judiciously so as to ensure adequate, timely and prompt clearance of entitlements.
115 In her views, Mrs Bisi Adeyemi, the Coordinator, Toward a Sustainable Livelihood for Pensioners, an NGO, said the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with pension payment remained a stumbling block.
“Most pensioners go through rigorous tasks as regards documentations and verifications which ought to have been done years back, preparatory to retirement.
“There are situations whereby many pensioners lost their lives in the name of going through the stress associated with documentations and verifications,” Adeyemi said.
She urged government at all levels to emulate what was obtainable in civilised countries, such as U.
S and Canada, in fashioning out a workable and sustainable retirement regime for pensioners.
A retired Principal, Mr Mathew Ogunlade, said the National Assembly should, as a matter urgent national importance, looked into the difficulties associated with the payment of pensions with the aim of addressing it squarely.
Ogunlade said: “There is need for them to beam their searchlights on the operations of Pension Fund Administrators and the relevant bodies involved in pension to know their weaknesses and challenges and the way forward.
Also, a 70-year-old retired teacher, Mr David Ajayi, called on the Federal Government to ensure strict compliance to the 2004 Pension Reforms.
Ajayi suggested that pensioners should get at least 70 per cent of their accrued money at the point of disengagement.
He decried a situation whereby pensioners would die sometimes before the large chunks of their pension was paid, describing it as disheartening.