Some media outfits on Saturday 25th April 2020, carried the response of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni to a question as to wether the Contributory Pension Fund could be used as palliatives as the lockdown entered the fourth week. The said question was asked during the Joint National Briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Friday 24th April 2020. The NLC President as expected, opposed using Contributory Pension Funds for palliatives. He was quoted to have said that “pension fund is not free money; it is the money that belongs to pensioners, which is in pensioners retirement savings accounts. It is structured in such a way that a pensioner continues to draw this money throughout his life. He talked about the need to protect the fund and ensure that pensioners or the workers contributing the monies would have something to rely on”. He was further quoted as haven concluded by saying that the money should not be used for COVID-19 palliatives. For taking this position and saying it out and clear, we at the Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy (CPRA) are proud of him.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presentational Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, was quoted to have assured that the federal government will not borrow from Contributory Pension Fund to provide palliatives to cushion the effect of COVID-19 lockdown in the country. He was quoted to have said: “We had looked at the issue of pension funds. As a matter of fact we even got the Minister of State of Education to do us a position paper and our conclusion is that the time is not even right for us to go there because the entire world order in terms of our economy and in terms of our health system has been disrupted by COVID-19 and the consequences nobody can imagine until the dust is settled.”
We at the Centre applaud the conclusion reached by the Presidential Task Force on the matter. This conclusion and the response of the NLC President would have been sufficient to put to rest, any further comment of the matter. However, some issues in the SGF’s response need to be addressed and that is what we intend to do here.
The SGF was quoted to have said: “As a matter of fact we even got the Minister of State of Education to do us a position paper and our conclusion is that the time is not even right for the us to go there …”. The federal government has been eyeing the Contributory Pension Funds for a long time now. First it was for infrastructural development and now for COVID-19 palliatives. The Centre along with other critical stakeholders of the fund including the NLC had made it known that they are not opposed to using pension funds for infrastructural development because pension funds are long term investable funds that are also opened for investment in infrastructure, provided that is done within a legal framework acceptable to all. Therefore we will rest the case with regard to infrastructural investment of pension fund.
What is worrisome at the moment to us at the Centre is the idea that government had even eyed the Contributory Pension Fund for COVID-19 palliatives. Unfortunately, whenever there is a slide confusion in the economy, government without first taking into consideration the principal objectives for which the fund was established; which is ensure that every person who worked in either the Public Service of the Federation, Federal Capital Territory, States and Local Governments or the Private Sector receives his retirement benefits as and when due; and assist improvident individuals by ensuring that they save in order to cater for their lively hood during old age.
That the PTF even remotely considered the use of the Contributory Pension Funds for COVID-19 palliatives to the point of getting a Minister to do a position paper for government on the matter, is a matter of great concern to some of us stakeholders of the fund. This discussion will limit itself and will therefore not go into discussing the federal government compliance with the provisions of the Pension Reform Act 2014. The Act established the Fund, and laid down rules and guidelines on how the fund should be manage, invested and pensions paid.
It is impossible for the government, to take pension fund for any purposes outside the law establishing the Fund. In the first place, almost 70% of the funds had been invested in government treasury bonds. The money is not cash. Assuming without conceding that it can be used for COVID-19 palliatives, then the government will have to first provide the cash to buy back the bonds.
In the total funds in the kitty, Federal and States Governments workers account for less than 50% of the value of the over 10 trillion Naira Contributory Pension Fund. The balance is owned by private sector workers. The composition of the Fund is the contributions of public sector workers, private sector workers and the return on investments. The fund is being used for the payment of current pensioners under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and future pension for current workers (contributors) in both the public and private sectors. The fund is in the respective Retirement Savings Accounts (RSA) of the pensioners and workers. Moreover part of the fund, has been used to purchase annuity with Life Insurance providers, for retirees who opted for Annuity as against Programme Withdrawals housed by Pension Funds Custodians and managed by PensionFunds Administrators.
The question, which the person who asked the question during Friday’s Joint National Briefing of The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Presidential Task Force that commissioned the Minister to State of Education to do a position paper on the matter have to answer is: how can money that already belongs to the pensioners and workers become a palliative?
We conclude by siding with the NLC President’s position that the Contributory Pension Fund can not be used for COVID-19 palliatives now or in the future. Rather the fund should be protected for the achievement of objectives for which it was established. We also want to remind all that the Federal Government lacks jurisdiction over the management of the Fund; the mandate of the government is to provide the enabling law and the regulation of the Fund.
Ivor Takor, Director, Centre for Pension Right Advocacy
FG Pays 2020 Group Life Insurance Premium
The Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) confirmed that the Federal Government has paid the 2020 Group Life Insurance for all Federal Government workers in full.
The Vice President of the Council, Tunde Oguntade made this known while speaking to members of the National Association of Insurance and Pension Correspondents (NAIPCO) shortly after the association’s Annual General Meeting in Lagos.
Oguntade, who represented the NCRIB President, Dr (Mrs) Bola Onigbogi, also called on the Federal Government to engage the services of the registered insurance brokers in order to mitigate the risk of contract failures.
He expressed displeasure at government’s failure to engage insurance brokers in its insurance arrangements, stating that the Council will continue to engage the government on the need for them to always engage the services of the brokers in their insurance arrangement.
According to him: “The 2020 Group Life is off the schedule because full premium has been paid on the account for the current year, there’s no lapse in cover at the moment.
“On government contracts what we are trying to do at NCRIB is to talk to ministers through our liaison committee and leadership that the contract failure thing you have all over the federation if you have insurance and you have Brokers arranging them for you, of course all those contracts failure will not be there because contracts failures are sometimes premeditated and they do not want to listen to us.
“We have been talking to them about all these roads, bridges and rails under construction on the importance of the government to engage the Brokers. If they don’t want the contracts to fail they know what to do. Imagine someone who go to roadside agent to ask for insurance policy. It’s the NCRIB that puncture that thing and say this is wrong. We will continue to do our best to engage government as long as government is willing to do the right thing, NCRIB will be there to support them.
On the issue of deepening insurance, he said there are several ways that can be done.
“You have online models which is referred to as technology, you have physical, and you have referrals. If somebody tries to get you online, you are bouncing, tries referrals, you you are bouncing, he will try the last option which is physical correct. There’s nothing that is wrong. The fact that I want to see someone physically is that I wish to convince the person that I have the skill, I have tried to get to you through technology, people have tried to make impact for me to meet you but to no avail, let me now put my face to the picture so that you will be able to see. When you see people going to the market, it doesn’t mean that they do not have technology,” he added
On application of technology in their operation, Oguntade said what NCRIB has done is to ensure that all its members are ICT savvy.
“What we have done in the NCRIB is that you cannot be a member without being information and communication technology (ICT) savvy. NCRIB has moved from manual to digital. Very soon renewal this year will be by the portal. Our members are well trained. You cannot say somebody is a Broker without being technology savvy. NCRIB is in tune with what the government is doing and we are in tune with what is happening in the outside world. You should expect more from the NCRIB, “ he said.
Also speaking at the event, NCRIB’s Executive Secretary, Fatai Adegbenro
said on the area of government contacts, the Council is in very close contact with government agencies, stating that every year the Council writes to inform them on the need to engage the services of the registered insurance Brokers even as he noted that the Council’s collaborative relationship between with the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) is very high now to make sure that fake Brokers are eliminated in the system
“Everybody knows that in every clime we have fake teachers, fake police, fake lawyers and what have you. You cannot whisk that away in any society, but the cooperative effort between NAICOM and NCRIB, a lot of thing is being done to minimize it to the barest minimum.
PenCom Moves To Review Pension Act
By Sola Alabadan
As part of efforts to address identified challenges and public clamour arising from the implementation of contributory pension scheme, the National Pension Commission (PenCom) has commenced moves to review the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.
PenCom’s Corporate Communications Manager, Peter Aghahowa, stated that the review is intended to reposition the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and consolidate the gains of the pension reform for the benefit of Nigerians.
The statement noted that accordingly, and consistent with its guiding philosophy of consultation and the imperative of ensuring the conduct of a comprehensive and constructive review exercise, the Commission has reached out to seek the input of its social partners, pension industry operators, financial regulators and other relevant stakeholders.
“In 2014, which was ten years after the implementation of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) in Nigeria, the National Assembly repealed the Pension Reform Act of 2004 and enacted the Pension Reform Act (PRA 2014) in order to address implementation challenges and introduce improvements to the Contributory Pension Scheme.
“However, some challenges were subsequently encountered in the implementation of certain Sections of the 2014 Act. Furthermore, within the last three years, there have been persistent clamour for amendment from individuals and interest groups as well as several legislative attempts on the amendment of some Sections of the PRA 2014,” the statement reads.
The statement noted that the commission is confident that the input received from stakeholders would immensely benefit the exercise and result to a workable and acceptable pension legislation.
Ekiti, PDP Bicker Over Alleged 15% Deductions Of Gratuities
The Ekiti State Government and the State chapter of the People’s Democractic Party (PDP) on Saturday disagreed over the alleged plot by the former to deduct gratuities of pensioners by 15 percent.
The opposition PDP accused Governor Kayode Fayemi of colluding with a Lagos- based private company, United Capital Plc, to loot over N6 billion from pensioners in the State.
The party described the government’s alleged new scheme, in which pensioners desirous of getting their gratuities and pensions are made to sign-off 15 percent of their entitlements as ‘wicked’, ‘callous’ and ‘fraudulent’.
In a statement in Ado-Ekiti on Saturday by the Ekiti PDP Caretaker Committee Secretary, Prince Diran Odeyemi, the party blamed Fayemi for the accumulated pensions and gratuities in the State.
The PDP explained that Fayemi during his first tenure refused to pay retirees and stopped allocating fund to the Pension Transition Arrangement Department even when the state was receiving N7 billion as monthly allocation and over N46 billion from the Excess Crude Account.
The party asked further: “We want to ask Governor Fayemi if contractors in the State who are being paid with borrowed funds are also made to part with 15 percent of the contract sum as condition to get paid.
“When Governor Fayemi returned as Governor in 2018, he introduced favouritism to the payment of entitlements of retiree, as he chose to pay retired Permanent Secretaries who retired in 2018 and 2019, with gratuities ranging between N12 million and N15 million and monthly pension running to over N400,000 each, while the junior ones, who are the most vulnerable with gratuity not more than N2 million and monthly pension less than N30,000 were left unpaid.”
Odeyemi alleged the State Government was going to borrow over N40 billion to pay the pensioners, asking; “If a government is borrowing money that will be repaid by the pensioners and other indigenes of the State, including those yet to be born, how sensible is it to still make the pensioners part with 15 percent of their entitlement?”
He accused Governor Fayemi of seeking to eat from the sweat of the pensioners, alleging a suspicion Governor will be getting10 percent out of the 15 percent to be deducted from the pensioners’ entitlement.
But Special Adviser to Governor Kayode Fayemi on Investment, Mr Akin Oyebode, had while appearing on a programme in Ado Ekiti explained that Ekiti has paid the pensioners N1.2 billion out of over N14 billion owed by paying N100 million monthly to defray the backlog of pension and gratuity arrears.
The Special Adviser said Fayemi jacked up monthly payment of the arrears from N10 million being paid by Governor Ayodele Fayose to N100 million monthly, saying this indicated the Governor has the interest of the pensioners at heart and has no reason whatsoever to dupe them as alleged by the opposition.
Oyebode said COVID- 19 has reduced the Federal allocation accruing to the state and it was becoming practically impossible to pay pension and gratuity.
This, he said, was responsible for why a special arrangement was made to pay the outstanding arrears with those who have interest of collecting whatever due to them now parting with 15 percent of the money.
“Governor Kayode Fayemi was not happy that people worked for 35 years without collecting what are due to them. The Governor said with payment of N100 million monthly, some of the pensioners might not take their benefits till they die and that informed the reason why we deliberated at the executive council to bring an investor to pay the money at once.
“Under this arrangement, what we intend to do is to bring an investor to pay the money to individual once with 15 percent deduction, but those who want to stick with monthly payment won’t suffer any deduction, they will be collecting it on tranches until it is paid. It is voluntary.
“But a pensioner might even negotiate for one or two years spread in payment and if that one is adopted, the percentage of deduction will be lower. The 15 percent is for those who want the money paid at once and it is not compulsory .
“We have not spent up two years, we have paid N1.2 billion unlike those who spent four years and paid like N440 million out of the arrears owed . We are determined to make them happy .
“But we are assuring our pensioners that whatever arrangements we are putting in place shall involve all their members. They will all participate in the arrangements and the best method that will make them happy shall be adopted,” Oyebode said.