House of Representatives Chamber

Retirees petition Reps, want contributory pension scheme scrapped

NEWS DIGEST–Retirees, under the auspices of the Nigeria Union of Contributory Pensioners, have petitioned the House of Representatives to lament the delayed and non-payment of pensions to beneficiaries under the current scheme.

In the memorandum submitted to the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee to Investigate the Activities of the National Pension Commission, the NUCP condemned the current pension system as being administered by PenCom, while calling for a reversal to the old system.

The pensioners particularly blamed pension laws and PenCom’s policies, alleging that the Contributory Pension Scheme was created to enrich Pension Fund Administrators.

Two pensioners, who appeared before the committee at its investigative hearing in Abuja on Thursday, narrated their individual experiences, including the financial crises they and their colleagues were facing.

A retired Director in the Federal Ministry of Information, Aigbokhaleode Asimiafele, said there were over 10 infractions allegedly committed by PenCom against the Act, including infringement on human rights.

Asimiafele lamented that retirees were not included in the board of PenCom while they were no more beneficiaries of the National Health Insurance Scheme.

He said, “We have two issues. The violation of the PenCom Act; we have 10 items of the violation of the fundamental and constitutional rights of retirees and pensioners. The constitution says that every five years or when salary is increased, the pension will be reviewed; PenCom did not deem it fit to do that.

“Our constitutional right says that our pension should be paid as and when due but 99 per cent of contributory pensioners, they allow us to die, while some have not received their lump sum payment.

“You can see the lapses and impunity in PenCom. Where is this money; where is it hanging? This is untold hardship. PenCom, they are very insensitive to us, the contributing pensioners. They use the money accrued for the PFAs to make more money.”

Asimiafele faulted the inclusion of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress in the board of PenCom while the pension contributors were excluded.

“Contributors should manage their affairs; they will be more prudent than those who did not contribute but sit down there and feel like they are ones to dictate whatever amount they want to pay to us,” he stated.

Another pensioner, Mr Adesina Atinsola-Moronto, who retired as Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, formerly known as Ministry of Commerce and Industry, also lamented that he and his retired wife were suffering as a result of not being paid.

The retiree said, “It is a pity that a thing like this is happening. What we are trying to do is to work ahead of our children who are coming behind. If it continues like this, it may not be easy for them and it may be dangerous for the nation. Why? Somebody who did not contribute a kobo towards his pension is now receiving double the amount of what the people who contributed are receiving. That is what our grouse is.

“What we are saying now is that the House can assist us to either go back to the old system and cancel this (scheme) or it must be done in the right manner if it must continue. You can’t continue to cheat people like this. It is unfortunate. People are dying. I know of my friends, a lot of them are now gone; some of them could not collect the first lump sum before they died.”

Commenting, the chairman of the committee, Mr Johnson Agbonayinma, said, “We also feel your pain and the pain of others. We must do everything humanly possible to get things right because tomorrow it might be you that will suffer the consequences. It is the foundation that we lay now; if it is right we will benefit from it; if it is wrong we will have to suffer the consequences.”

The lawmaker noted that several other pensioners had also reported their frustrations to him, saying, “I can imagine how people who have worked to serve this nation, just to get their pension, it is a problem. They cannot even pay their medical bills or buy medicine because somebody is sitting and taking decisions without thinking about all these.”