ByÂ Yinka Kolawole & Godwin Oritse
The Federal Government has queried ministries, departÂ Â ments and agencies (MDAs) in the federal civil serviceÂ Â Â over the non-remittance of National Housing Fund (NHF) deductions to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).
A circular obtained by Vanguard, signed by the Permanent Secretary, Common Services Office, Dr. Edugie Abebe, on behalf of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, to top officials of government, revealed findings from FMBN to the effect that most officers in the civil service are either not registered or do not have NHF Passbooks.
The circular stated: â€œI am directed to bring to your attention that recent findings from Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) indicate that most officers in the Federal Civil Service are not registered or have not obtained their NHF Passbooks even though monthly deductions are being made from their salaries since inception of the scheme in 1994.
â€œRecords show that even those who were said to have obtained passbooks do not have their remittances recorded against their names at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria. This is because such remittances from MDAs are in most cases not accompanied with schedules containing the names of officers on whose behalf the remittance was made.
â€œIn view of these finds, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has directed that: All Ministries, Departments and Extra-Ministerial Departments should bring the contents of this circular to the notice of all staff to, as a matter of urgency, obtain FMBN passbooks for their NHF deductions immediately.
â€œAll Directors of Finance and Accounts in all MDAs are directed to always attach deduction schedules of remittances, containing the names of the Officers on whose behalf the payment is made and the amount remitted, to FMBN.
â€œAll staff are also advised to take necessary steps to regularize and update records of deduction in their passbooks both in the MDAs and at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.â€
The circular was directed to top officials of government including Principal Secretary to the President; Principal Secretary to the Vice President; Chief Justice of Nigeria and; all honourable Ministers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Special Advisers/Senior Special Advisers.
Others are: All Service Chiefs/Inspector General of Police; All Chairmen, Federal Executive Commissions and Councils; All Federal Permanent Secretaries; Account-General of the Federation and Auditor-General of the Federation; Clerk of the National Assembly; Survey-General of the Federation; Chief Registrar, Supreme Court and All Directors-General/Chief Executives of Extra-Ministerial Departments and Agencies.
The National Housing Fund (NHF) was established by Decree No.3 of 1992 to facilitate the continuous flow of low-cost funds for long term investment in housing for the benefit of all Nigerians.
The Decree stipulates that any Nigerian earning an income of N3,000.00 and above per annum should contribute 2.5 percent of his or her basic monthly salary or income to the Fund. It covers workers in both sectors of the economy i.e. the public sector and the organized private sector.
An employer is expected to deduct 2.5 percent from the monthly salary of his employees and remit same promptly to FMBN. non-remittance of deductions is therefore a violation of the law which attracts punishment.
The law also requires the three tiers of government (federal, state and local) to contribute at least 2.5 percent of their annual revenues into the NHF. The policy works mainly by pooling resources from both the public and private sectors and thus limiting governmentâ€™s direct participation.