Ebere Nwoji

The Association of Retired Senior Public Officers of Nigeria (ARFESPON), has urged the federal government to pay to its members all outstanding pension benefits and erase every disparity in payment of pension benefits between its members and their serving counterparts.

ARFESPON, made up of retired management level officers from salary grade level 14 to permanent secretaries, comptrollers- Generals of Customs, Immigration and Prisons and Career Ambassadors, said currently, government is owing its members 30months arrears of benefits from the 53.4 percent salary increase it effected on federal public workers in 2010 which by the stipulations of the law of the federation should be effected on the retirement benefits of pensioners.

The President, Lagos State Chapter of the association, Mr. Olufemi Odewabi, making this demand from government on behalf of ARFESPON members in a brief interview with THISDAY in Lagos, said government was yet to listen to yearnings of the retired senior public officers in which they have been pleading with government to totally effect the 2010 increase in their pension benefits and to end the era of disparity in the payment of retirement benefits to pensioners.

He noted that the federal government, during the regime of Goodluck Jonathan, effected 53.4 percent increase in the salaries of public office workers and failed to do the same to pensioners.
He quoted section 173, sub section 3 of the constitution of Nigeria on this which states that “pension shall be reviewed every five years or together with any federal civil service salary reviews whichever is earlier”.

Odewabi, said when his association reacted to government’s non compliance with the above section of the law regarding the increase it made in the salaries of its workers in 2010, government set up a committee to review their case but the committee went contrary to the position of the constitution on the issue and recommended for 33 percent increase for the pensioners against 53.4 percent effected on federal workers’ salaries.

He said this left the pensioners with a short change of 20.4 percent.
He lamented that even the 33 percent increase recommended by the committee, government has been paying them install mentally with the result that as at today, government is still owing his members 30 months arrears of the 2010 33 percent increase it made.

Odewabi, on behalf of the ARFESPON members, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari,to clear the 30 months arrears, pay up the sum total of the 20.4 percent deducted by the committee.
He said his members were right in their demand for the 20.4 percent deductions because all the reasons given by the committee for the deductions were wrong.

He said the tax percent deducted by the committee was against section173, subsection 4 of the constitution of Nigeria which states that pensioners in respect of service in the public service of the federation shall not be taxed.

He said the percent deducted for contributory Pension Scheme was wrong because all his members are under the Defined Benefit old scheme and has nothing to do with Contributory scheme.
The Federal housing scheme, for which the committee deducted 2.5 percent, according to him,should not be because his members are no longer under the housing scheme.
Describing the deductions as illegal, Odewabi urged president Buhari to listen to his members cries and pay both the outstanding 30 months and the 20.4 percent deductions.
He also pleaded for harmonisation of the parity existing in payments between serving and retired public officers.