Opinion: Thank you, Buhari for paying 81 months pension arrears

by Kelvin Adegbenga

One would think that after years of service to the government, retirees should have some pension to live on. It is probably too much to ask various government agencies to pay retirees a living wage considering the low level of economic activity in Nigeria but some level of pension to retirees should be a right after they put in required number of years of service.

Some of these pensioners have endured abuses and disadvantageous work environment while in service and now have to put up with months of waiting for their paltry gratuity. The worst part is that the pension backlog runs into months and years without any sense of urgency by the past government officials who are supposed to know better.

Nigerian media have been awash with news of many of pensioners collapsing in various parts of the country, some dying while standing in queue to collect their meager stipends. The story has been the same from the Military to the Police to the Civil Servants.

The unending nightmare of fraud perpetuated on pension accounts is inflicting untold hardship and pains to retirees. We read on daily newspapers and online media how their entitlements are embezzled by government officials who are supposed to manage their pension.

It will be recalled that Nigerian government enacted Pension Reform Act of 2004 which mandates establishment of contributory pension fund for private and government employees which should be used for payment of retirement benefits to all employees. Subject to section 8 of this act, the new pension system shall apply to all employees in the public service of the federation and Federal Capital Territory. In the case of the private sector, the Act mandates organizations with 5 employees or more to establish pension fund for those employees. The new pension reform also requires pension funds to be privately managed by licensed Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs). To ensure credibility and discourage frivolous application, pension fund companies must be a limited liability company and must provide paid up share capital of 150,000,000 Naira and demonstrate professional capacity to manage pension funds retirement benefits.

High level corruption is so widespread in Nigeria and constitutes a nearly insurmountable obstacle to any reform effort under the past administration.

But since the Buhari administration was inaugurated on 29th of May, 2015, I knew pensioners will get their entitlement without stress and free from corruption as witness in the past.

It will be recalled that as at August, 2016, the Buhari administration has paid 81 months pension arrears to Police, Customs, Immigration, Prisons and Civil Service pensioners.

The Government paid arrears which were incurred from 33 per cent pension increment but left 87 months outstanding.

The 33 per cent pension payment came as fallout of the upward review of the minimum wage to N18, 000 in 2010.

It will be recalled that the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service, chaired by Senator Emmanuel Paulker, who visited the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate for its oversight functions gave a detailed breakdown of paid pension arrears and outstanding months to journalists.

According to the documents, the Parastatals pension department had its 12 months arrears paid, leaving 30 months outstanding, the Civil Service Pension Department was paid 24 months, leaving 18 months outstanding.

Three months of 33 per cent increment were paid to Police Pension Department, leaving outstanding of 39 months to Customs, Immigration and Prisons Pension Department which had all its 42 months arrears paid off.

I sincerely commend President Buhari for paying the pensioners. The pensioners who voted for change are not regretting the change they voted.

I am using this medium to call on State Governments to emulate President Buhari by paying all pension arrears and outstanding to pensioners as they laid the foundation for our great country’s peaceful atmosphere we are enjoying.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Kelvin Adegbenga writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

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