By ZAKA KHALIQ, Lagos
The federal government, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), among others, have opposed the bill sponsored by Hon. Oluwole Oke, seeking the exit of paramilitary agencies from the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
They made their position known at the public hearing on the bill, in Abuja, after it had earlier gone through the second reading in the House of Representatives. The federal government represented by the acting Secretary General of Federation(SGF), Dr. Habibat Lawan, said passage of the bill would means that government would be taken care of the pension contributions of the paramilitary agencies.
This, he said, would create further financial burden on the Federal government, who is still struggling to offset its huge pension liabilities, saying, the depleting government revenue sources will not allow FG takes over that responsibility. She called on the National Assembly to reject the bill, as it will destabilise the entire fiscal and financial system of the economy.
In the same vein, the President, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said though, the bill is good on the surface, but in reality, it will collapse the pension system. Stating that the labour did not support the move, he noted that most of the agitations of the bill has been taken care of in the Pension Reforms Act(PRA2014), saying, it would amount to futility the activities of the promoters of the new scheme, if this bill is passed into law.
Believing the scheme can be tinkered with to accommodate most concerns raised, he said any amendment now would be too soon, three years after the Pension Reforms Act was amended.
According to him, “Pensioners are satisfied with the current arrangement which gives security to the fund. The Pension Fund Administrators (PFA) don’t have access to the money. It is kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and this gives security to the fund. To make the scheme works better, government must do enough to remit as and when due to ensure smooth and effective CPS.”
Exiting the paramilitary agencies from the CPS, he said, will only add to the financial burden of the federal government who is still struggling to offset its huge liabilities.
Exiting these people will mean taking them back to the old scheme riddled with embezzlement and financial malpractices, he stressed. He, however, urged the government to revisit the gratuity issues to ensure that retirees get their gratuities earlier before their pension entitlement is ready for access.
Earlier, the Inspector General of Police(IGP), Ibrahim Idris, represented by Mr. David Bodo, disclosed that police still wants to remain in the CPS, even as he felt the welfare of the Paramilitary is best taken care of under the new pension scheme.
The director, Centre for Pension Right Advocacy, Dr. Ivor Takor , said passage of such bill will make other agencies to be calling for exit from the scheme, adding that, this would eventually spelt doom for the pension industry.
Speaking on another bill seeking to alter section 7 of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014, to raise pension benefits for those disengaged from work and were unable to secure another job within four months of disengagement, from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of the contributions in their Retirement Saving Account (RSA), the Acting Director General, National Pension Commission(PenCom), Mrs. Aisha Dahir-Umar, said this would affect the monthly pension entitlement of contributors at retirement, as they will have little to get, since they have already taken 50 per cent from it earlier.
According to her, “As it is the case with every human endeavour, the pension reform had its own share of challenges.
These challenges, however, could all be addressed within the framework of the CPS. Indeed, there had been many challenges that were over years addressed administratively by PenCom and recently through legislative action under the PRA 2014.”
To this end, she said there is a dire need to consolidate the gains of the CPS and avoid policy reversals, as this would undermine public confidence and negatively impact the Nigerian economy and Federal Government’s change agenda and economic recovery plans.
The chairman, Committee on Pension Matters, House of Representatives, Mr. Hassan Adamu Shekarau, who chaired the public hearing promised to assess all the positions of stakeholders before making any decision on the two bills.
A member of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Amadi Dennis Oguerinwa, had earlier proposed a bill to alter section 7 of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014, to raise pension benefits for those disengaged from work and were unable to secure another job within four months of disengagement, from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of the contributions in their Retirement Saving Account (RSA).
The Paramilitary Exemption Bill was sponsored by Honourable Oluwole Oke, seeks to exclude members of the Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Customs Service and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from the new pension scheme..
The reason for the proposed exit, according to the sponsor of the bill, was that the entitlement the paramilitary personnel get is meagre under the CPS compared to what they have in the old scheme known as Defined Benefits Scheme (DBS).
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