BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
TRADE Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, has said pension and gratuity are legitimate rights of employees that should not be tempered with, declaring that attempt by some employers and political class to surreptitiously discontinue gratuity payment must be resisted.
TUC lamented that the controversy trailing the payment of gratuity arose because its payment was not clearly stated in the Pension Reforms Act, PRA, 2004, calling on government at all levels take advantage of the 2013 Pension Reform Bill to clearly and unambiguously restore gratuity.
Chairman of Rivers State Council of TUC, Hyginus Chika Onuegbu, spoke while presenting a paper on ”The Contributory Pension Scheme and Pension Reform Act 2004: Implementation, Emerging Challenges and Prospects in the Public Service” organised by the Association of Senior Civil Servants, ASCSN, Rivers State chapter.
According to Onuegbu who is also the National Industrial Relations Officer, IRO, of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN said , “Government at all levels should take advantage of the 2013 Pension Reform Bill to clearly and unambiguously restore gratuity. The payment of gratuity should be compulsory and unambiguous. In fact the State Governments should not wait for the 2013 Pension Reform Bill, they should immediately amend their various State pension laws to clearly and unambiguously restore gratuity.
He argued that a key part of that workers right was the right to pension and gratuity, saying “Pension and gratuity are essentially deferred compensation or payments to employees’ payable upon retirement or severance in line with the conditions of service, collective bargaining agreement and/or the law. They are part of employees’ salary which is set aside to meet the basic financial needs of the employees upon retirement. Hence they are paid when the employee leaves the employment in line with the condition of service, collective bargaining agreement or the law. They are therefore the legitimate rights of the employees.”
Onuegbu traced of pension and gratuity in Nigeria to the 1951 Pension ordinance retroactively effective from January 1, 1946, noting that “the law provided for the payment of pension and gratuity to public servants. This law remained operative until the 1970s when decrees were made to provide for payment of pensions. First was the Basic Pension Decree 102 of 1979(retroactively effective 1974); the Local Government Pension Scheme established by Military Fiat in 1977; the Armed Forces Pension Decree 103 of 1979 with retroactive effect from April 1974;the Pensions Rights of Judges Decree NO.5 of 1985 as mended by Amendment Decrees Nos. 51 of 1988, 29 and 62 of 1991. Also the Police and other Agencies Pension Scheme Decree No: 75 of 1993 retroactively effective from 1990.”
The Rivers State Chairman, added “These decrees were therefore the enabling laws for pensions to public servants and military until June 2004 when the Pension Reform act became effective. Permit me to mention however that these decrees were nevertheless modified by several circulars and regulations over the years”.