With the recent signing of the 2018 National Budget by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, there seems to be a renewed hope for the federal government retirees as the government has included the payment of N97.5 billion accrued pension rights for its former workers in the current budget, LEADERSHIP can now exclusively reveal.
Although, the presidency accused the National Assembly (NASS) of reducing its budget for the retirees by N5billion from the provisions of Federal Government Retirement Benefit Bond Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment, there are strong indications that presidency will include the N5 billion cut-off in the supplementary budget expected to be sent to the national assembly (NASS.)
Investigation revealed that the benefiting federal pensioners are those who retired from federal civil service between April 2017 to May, 2018 and are yet to be paid as well as some retirees who were under Defined Benefits Scheme(DBS) and have over three years to retire, as at the time the new pension scheme kicked-off in 2004.
While the concerned retirees, since their retirement, have been struggling to make ends meet, some of them have died within the period as a result of ailments they have no fund to take care of.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP on this development, the head, Corporate Communications, National Pension Commission(PenCom), Mr. Peter Aghahowa, said the accrued pension rights that have not been paid have been appropriated for in the 2018 budget signed into law last week.
He added that as soon as the budget is approved and appropriation made, the federal government will clear all its outstanding pension owed its retirees.
“We are also planning to present the accrued rights of the federal government workers expected to retire in 2019 to government on time so that they can make provision for that amount. So, we are hopeful that all the outstanding pensions would be paid because it is part of what has been appropriated for in the budget,” he said.
PenCom had earlier said that, “The Commission served as a member of an Inter-Ministerial Committee, chaired by the minister of Finance, that was set up by Mr. President to determine the total pension liabilities of the federal government under both the CPS and the Defined Benefits Scheme, and advise the government on the amount required to be provided in the budget to defray the pension obligation.
The Commission said it has determined the total pension liability owed to the Contributory Pension retirees due to both the 15 per cent and 33 per cent pension increases of 2007 and 2014 respectively.
Meanwhile, the executive director, Centre For Pension Right Advocacy(CPRA), Barrister Ivor Takor, who was unhappy that the National Assembly cut down Pension and Public Service Wage Adjustment by N5 billion, urged the legislators to always be responsible when dealing with matters such as this one.
Successive governments, he stressed, had failed to adequately fund the Federal Government Retirement Benefits Bond Redemption Fund from where accrued pension rights of employees are redeemed, adding that it is however sad for retirees and stakeholders in the pension industry, that the National Assembly, to whom retirees have always been complaining to for the non-payment of their benefits, were the ones cutting off money meant for payment of retirees from the budget.
“We concede that the Constitution gives the National Assembly powers to scrutinise and approve budget proposals laid before it by the Executive Arm of government and in that process, the Assembly is not expected to rubber stamp whatever is laid before it and return same to the Executive Arm. However, in carrying out this constitutional functions, members should have at the back of their minds that some sub heads such as pension are actual liabilities of government and not just estimates, therefore they require little or no alterations,” he pointed out.
While urging the federal government to make appropriation for this money to be paid to the concerned retirees on time, he charged the president to remedy this issue through a supplementary and/or amendment budget to be submitted to the National Assembly soon.
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