The National Pension Commission(PenCom) has finally bowed to pressure by granting operational licence to the Nigerian University Pension Management Company(NUPENCO), to manage all university staff pension contributions under the contributory pension scheme (CPS).
Approval for the establishment of the NUPENCO was disclosed by PenCom in statement made available to THISDAY.
The commission, in the statement explained that: “National Pension Commission has approved the issuance of a licence to NUPEMCO to carry out the business of a Pension Fund Administrator (PFA).
“This approval is consequent upon a detailed evaluation of NUPEMCO’s compliance with the requirements, terms and conditions stipulated by the commission.”
The Academic Staff Union of Universities’ agitation for the establishment of a separate body that would manage the pension contributions of university workers dates back to 2013, when in an interview, the then chairman ASUU, University of Lagos Chapter, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka, had stated that due to irregularities and lack of transparency noticed by union members in the management of its members’ pension fund by their various pension fund managers, they had unanimously agreed to pull out of existing pension fund administrators licenced by PenCom.
NUPENCO would be domiciled at the University of Lagos and would start operation by first managing the pension fund of academic staff of universities nationwide, after which it would be expected to take charge of all staff of universities and other tertiary institutions under its management.
Ogbinaka, said the purpose was to ensure that ASUU members have their contributions intact, adding that a situation in which there is disparity in the amount the universities deduct from the salaries of the ASUU members and the amount the PFAs record as savings in their Retirement Savings Account (RSA) would not guarantee safety of the members’ hard earned money.
“ASUU has started the recruitment of personnel that will manage the board of NUPENCO at the University of Lagos. So, if anybody is saying we don’t have constitutional right to have what concerns our destiny, if they are still doubting it, please, you can go to Google search engine and find out,” he said.
He explained that “the formation of NUPENCO is part of the issues determined by law in the country. The law is open to anybody that wants to set up its own pension manager as long as it can follow the rule of law and ASUU will not do anything that is illegal.
“We have members who are lawyers, even senior advocates; anywhere you have a university across the federation.”
PenCom had insisted that the law establishing the contributory pension scheme and the pension fund administrators was still intact and had not permitted anybody to pull out of the scheme or establish own pension fund manager without due licence from the regulatory body.
Consequently, it had argued that NUPENCO was not backed by law and, therefore, could not exist.
PenCom had then insisted that no association or labour union, including ASUU, has the constitutional right to pull out of the contributory pension scheme established by the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2004 or set up its own pension fund administrator without the approval of the commission.
But with the latest approval of NUPENCO, all university workers would have to quit their pension fund administrators to register with NUPENCO.
But industry watchers are worried that since the transfer window that would enable contributors into the scheme move from one pension fund administrator to another has not kicked off, it may be difficult for the university workers to move to NUPENCO, unless PenCom decides to bend the rule.
With the licencing of NUPENCO, there are now two pension fund operators under the contributory Pension scheme set up to manage pension contributions of set of workers. One is the Nigerian Police Force Pension Limited and now NUPENCO .