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.
PenCom Makes Data Recapture Exercise Condition To Process RSA Transfer Request
The National Pension Commission said the completion of the Data Recapture Exercise (DRE) is a prerequisite for processing any Retirement Savings Account (RSA) transfer request by RSA holders who registered before 1st of July 2019.
“The National Pension Commission (the Commission) introduced the Data Recapture Exercise (DRE) in August 2019 in order to obtain complete, accurate and current data of all RSA holders (both active and retired), the commission stated.
The statement added that “Accordingly, Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) were directed by the Commission to obtain the relevant information required for the DRE from RSA holders and the process is on going. One of the information required for the exercise is the National Identity Number (NIN).
“The Commission is desirous to ensure that all RSA holders are able to exercise their rights of transferring their RSAs trom one PFA to another, in anticipation of the formal launch of the RSA Transfer System during the last quarter of 2020.
“The Commission therefore wishes to notify all RSA holders that the completion of the DRE is a prerequisite for processing any RSA transfer request by RSA holders who registered before 1 July 2019.”
PenCom explained to fast track the DRE, it approved a proposal of the Pension Operators’ Association of Nigeria (PenOp) for an industry Shared Service Initiative (SSI).
“Consequently, PenOp has engaged agents to conduct the DRE on behalf of all PFAs. This arrangement will enhance efficiency in carrying out the exercise as it would allow an agent to recapture all RSA holders in the same organization on behalf of all PFAs. In partnership with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the selected agents will have the ability to carry out NIN registrations seamlessly.
“The Commission hereby appeals to all active RSA holders and retirees to cooperate with the agents that would be visiting their organisations to carry out the DRE. Meanwhile, the Commission remains committed to providing necessary support to the pension industry to ensure the success of the DRE,” it noted.
Senate Confirms Dahir-Umar DG PenCom, Four Board Members
The Senate confirmed the appointment of Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar as the substantive Director General of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) on Tuesday.
President Muhammadu Buhari had penultimate week, sent the name of Dahir -Umar to the Senate, seeking the lawmakers ’ confirmation for her to be the substantive DG and others , to the board of the agency.
The lawmakers also confirmed Dr Oyindasola Oluremi Oni, from North Central as the Chairman of the commission.
Also confirmed were Clement Akintola (South -West); Ayim Nyerere ( South – East) and Charles Emukowhale (South – South), as commissioners of the PenCom board.
However, the Senate refused to confirm the appointment of Hannatu Musa (North -West) because she was unable to present her discharge certificate from the National Youths Service Corps.
Until her confirmation, Dahir-Umar , from the North -East geopolitical zone , held the position in acting capacity .
Lack Of PenCom Board Stalls N14,400 Minimum Pension Payment
Five years after the pension operators and the National Pension Commission drafted guidelines to commence N 14 , 400 minimum pensions for retirees , the payment is yet to begin.
A source at PenCom said the minimum pension could not commence because the commission had no board in the past five years.
Operators had recommended 80 per cent of minimum wage to be paid to retirees , following complaints of ridiculously low stipends paid to retirees with low balances in their Retirement Savings Account .
The PenCom source said, “ The guidelines are yet to be approved . So, we still cannot say this is the amount because we are going to make contributions before it is approved .
“ What was proposed then was 80 per cent of minimum wage at that time , which was N 14 , 400 .”
“ We did not have a board and that was why we could not progress with it , but now that we are expecting to have a board , we hope it would be reviewed because it is the responsibility of the board to approve it . ”
According to the source, with a new board , the commission may review the minimum pensions based on what the current minimum wage is .
It would be recalled that PenCom ’s board was sacked in 2015 , after which the executives were dissolved in 2017 .
At a retreat organised by the Pension Fund Operators Association of Nigeria for the National Assembly Joint Committees for Establishment and Public Service of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Pensions in December, the operators urged the Federal Government to constitute PenCom board .
They expressed worry that the sector , which had continued to record the fastest growing assets in the financial system , had been left without a board .
As of June 2020 , total pension funds stood at N 11 .05 tn .
The Pension Reform Act 2014 provided that PenCom should establish and maintain a fund to be known as the Pension Protection Fund in respect of the guarantee minimum pension.
According to the Act , funding of the minimum guaranteed pension would be partly obtained 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 .
It would also be funded from the annual pension protection levy paid by PenCom and all licensed pension operators at a rate to be determined by the commission from time to time .
The draft guideline , which was awaiting approval stated that informal sector workers and casual workers must have contributed for 120 and 135 months respectively before they could enjoy this privilege .
This initiative, according to the operators , will bring an end to situations were retirees are paid abysmally low pensions or when the balance in their RSA were awfully small, which made them un -pensionable .