Umbrella body of Pension Fund Operators (PFAs) and Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs), the Pension Operators Association of Nigeria (PenOp), has condemned the bill for an act to amend the Pension Reform Act 2014 to exclude and exempt the National Assembly service from the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and to establish what the law makers tagged National Assembly Service Pension Board and for Related Matters (HB2025).
The bill, which was recently passed by both chambers of the National Assembly, seeks to exempt the National Assembly Service from the CPS, which has been in practice in Nigeria for the last 18 years.
PenOp in a statement condemning the bill and the manner in which it was passed said, “PenOp wishes to state unequivocally that the passage of this bill sets a dangerous precedent that will not augur well for hardworking Nigerians, working across the private and public sector, who depend on the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for retirement security and stability.
“The introduction of the CPS in Nigeria marked a departure from the unsustainable pension schemes the country had been operating in the past. This scheme has brought transparency, international best practice and guaranteed peace of mind to millions of pensioners. For these reasons and many more, the need for the above bill is indeed unfathomable and unjustifiable.”
The statement signed by PenOp management led by Mr Oguche Aguda as the Director General said the association particularly, wished to express grave concern regarding the way the bill was passed adding that the passage of the bill seemed to have been unnecessarily expedited and shrouded in secrecy with very little engagement and input from critical stakeholders as it was passed during the National Assembly’s recess.
“Indeed, it is disturbing that this bill did not go through any public hearing, a key component of the legislative process that allows stakeholders to have their voices and opinions heard for possible inclusion in the process. If this was done, pertinent issues such as the amendment of retirement age, funding of pension liability, and the potential debt burden on government—all of which are affected by this bill—would have been debated and brought to the fore, ”he said.
According to PenOp, the exemption of any agency or group from the CPS holds grave consequences for Nigeria’s struggling fiscal position and would potentially upend the retirement security of pensioners who had given their blood and sweat in service to our great Nation.
“Hence, we call on all well-meaning Nigerians to note this grave anomaly and join us in calling on the National Assembly to reconsider its decision as well as enjoin the executive and the judiciary to out rightly condemn this action.
“More specifically, we call on the National Economic Council, the Minister of Finance, Budget & National Planning, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and all relevant government stakeholders to look into this anti-people bill and ensure that it is not signed into law. Finally, should this bill proceed to Mr. President, we call on him to kindly refuse to assent to this bill in the interest of the people, the sustainability of the Nation’s pension system and the flawed procedure in which this bill went through, ”PenOp stated.
The Pension Reform Act 2014 exempted only existing pensioners, employees who have three years or less to retire before the enactment of PRA2004 amended in 2014 and the categories of persons covered by the provisions of section 291 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 which did not include National Assembly personnel.
The section in part states concerning these categories of persons, “Any person who has held office as a judicial officer -for a period of not less than fifteen years shall, if he retires at or after the age of sixty-five years in the case of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, a Justice of the Supreme Court, the President of the court of Appeal or a Justice of the Court of Appeal or at or after the age of sixty years in any other case, be entitled to pension for life at a rate equivalent to his last annual salary and all his allowances in addition to any other retirement benefits to which he may be entitled for a period of less than fifteen years shall, if he retires at or after the age of sixty-five years or sixty years, as the case may be, be entitled to pension for life at a rate as in paragraph (a) of this subsection pro rata the number of years he served as a judicial officer in relation to the period of fifteen years, and all his allowances in addition to other retirement benefits to which he may be entitled under his terms and conditions of service; and in any case, shall be entitled to such pension and other retirement benefits as may be regulated by an Act o the National Assembly or by a Law of a House of Assembly of a State.”