As part of steps taken by the Ekiti State government to gradually defray the backlog of gratuity owed the retirees, no fewer than 52 pensioners were given cheques worth several millions of naira as gratuities on Thursday.
The State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi who handed out the cheques in Ado- Ekiti, restated the commitment of his administration to bringing succour to the State workforce and pensioners by prioritizing their welfare in spite of the dwindling resources accrued to the State.
The Governor who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Hon. Biodun Omoleye said the commitment of his administration to the welfare of pensioners is evident in the increase in the fund earmarked monthly for the defraying gratuity from #10 million to #100 million in order to accommodate more beneficiaries.
The 52 beneficiaries of the cheques were retirees from local government and primary schools.
Governor Fayemi explained that the exercise would have come earlier if not for the advent of the global Covid-19 pandemic that affected the socio-economic activities.
While reiterating that his administration would not renege on the promises made to Ekiti people, Fayemi assured the pensioners that the exercise would be a continuous process, as the government is concerned about the general well being of its citizens.
The Governor said: “It is common knowledge that we inherited backlog arrears of unpaid entitlements from the past administration. However, we are conscious of the fact that government is a continuum. Therefore, we are facing the challenge of offsetting the arrears headlong against all odds.
” The present administration is not oblivious of the hardship, pains, and challenges being faced by our senior citizens, as a result of the backlog of unpaid benefits in the past. We have therefore resolved to face the challenge and make our people happier. By the grace of God, despite the little resources available to the State, our administration will continue to bring relief to the entire workforce and the retirees”, he said.
While allaying the fears of those who are yet to get their entitlements, the Governor assured that the monthly payment of gratuities would be based on “first to retire, first to be paid” as the government would not give room for favoritism in order to preserve the sanctity and sanity of the exercise.
Dr Fayemi who expressed the possibility of increasing the monthly funds for the payment of gratuities when the financial capacity of the State increases, urged those who have not got their gratuities to keep faith with his administration.
He urged the beneficiaries of the distributed cheques to make judicious use of the money.
“For the umpteenth time, I want to allay the fear of those pensioners that are yet to collect their own gratuities not to be disturbed. By God’s grace, you will use your hands to collect yours very soon. I promised that our payment on first to retire, first to be paid would be maintained. This method would be sustained for the sanctity and sanity of the exercise devoid of favoritism. I urge the beneficiaries of this exercise to plan with the money and prudently utilize it for a blissful retirement”, Fayemi 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 .