Stakeholders in the pension sector, mainly the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) among others, at the public hearing on bill for an Act to amend the Pension Reform Act 2014 opposed the bill.
They said it was not in the best interest of government, the Nigerian workers and the economy.
The stakeholders, reacting to the multiple private bills filed by some members of the House of Representatives especially the bill seeking the exemption of six paramilitary agencies of the government from the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), rejected what they described as an act of commission or omission, legislatively or otherwise that is targeted at undermining or destroying the existing pension system in the country.
Describing the current pension system in the country as a solid good house built by President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s administration, they said they were ready to resist any attempt to return Nigeria workers to the old Defined Benefit Pension Scheme which according to them, subjected them to unimaginable dehumanising post- service treatment.
The one-day public hearing on Pension Reform Act 2014 which took place at the House of Representatives auditorium was presided over by Chairman House Committee on Pension, Hon. Hassan Adamu Shekarau.
Prior to the hearing, multiple private bills demanding the amendment of the Pension Reform Act 2014 were filed by some members of the House of Representatives.
Among the bills, the one that has generated much comments from the public especially the stakeholders in pension subsector, was the bill on exemption of six paramilitary agencies of government namely the police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Prisons Service, Nigerian Immigration Service and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from the contributory pension scheme.
The bill was sponsored by Hon. Oluwole Oke while the bill seeking the approval of 75 per cent sum withdrawal by retirees from their Retirement Savings Account(RSA), instead of the prevailing 25 per cent minimum and 50 per cent maximum withdrawal was sponsored by Senator Aliyu Wamko.
At the public hearing, among the stakeholders who presented their submissions to the House were members of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners(NUP), NLC, TUC, Nigerian Police, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), EFCC, Association of Retired Police Pensioners, the National Pension Commission (NAICOM), Security and Exchange Commission, CBN, National Pension Commission,(PenCom), Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate(PTAD), Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Certified Pension Institute among others.
In his submission, National President of NUP, Dr. Abel Afolayan, said for the pensioners under the defined pension scheme, the introduction of the contributory pension scheme and the enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004 amended in 2014, was the most laudable step taken by the government to transform and improve the pension sector in Nigeria.
â€œThe year 2004 will therefore remain a significant landmark in the history and development of our pension industry. It will not be out of place to commend all the dignitaries, personalities, agencies, establishments and institutions and particularly the legislative and executive arms of government for the laudable roles they played. It is our hope however that none of them, individually or collectively, by any act of omission or commission, will take any step that will undermine or destroy the work they have started,â€ he stated.
In his submission NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said on the surface, the bill looks attractive but that in practical reality, it will be destructive and will collapse the existing pension system.
According to him, most of the agitations of the bill have been taken care of in the existing act.
He said the pension act should be allowed to remain as it is, adding that the Act has obviously brought huge relief to the pensioners.
The Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, who was represented by Commissioner of Police, David Bodo, said the NPF Pension Fund Administrator (PFA), has done very well and that the police are of the opinion that it will remain with the CPS.
He called on the government to attend to issues already raised by the Force which are being attended to by the PenCom, stressing that the welfare of the Nigerian police would be well taken care of under the CPS.
The National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) also supported the remaining of the paramilitary agencies of government with CPS, arguing that those pushing for the bill on the ground which the CPS guarantees for payment of benefits for only 18 years should remember that the annuity aspect created by the existing act also pays pension benefits throughout the life of a pensioner.
CBN noted that going by current realities, especially now that Nigeria depends more on oil which the world are presently turning away from, it would be difficult to cater for the pension of members of the paramilitary if they are exempted.
Former Director-General PenCom, Mohammed Ahmad, said there is need to sustain policies, adding that the number of people seeking exemption may be up to 50 per cent of government workers, which it cannot cater for.