By Victor Ahiuma-Young

TRUSTFUND Pensions, has spent over two  billion Naira to settle the benefits of a total of 14, 691 retirees inherited from the defunct National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) in 2006.

Head of the NSITF Fund Division of the Trustfund Pension Plc, Mr. Simon-Peters Okoduwa, who disclosed this in  Abuja, said  the payment had  given succour to the pensioners and that they were very happy about the payment.

According to him, under the defunct system, retirees were not guaranteed  their pension after retirement which had seen them subjected to untold hardship while some even died on the queues either waiting to be verified or paid in various pay-points in parts of the country.

He said: “Since the Trustfund came on board in 2006, we have paid N2, 191, 630, 915 and 37 kobo to 14, 691 claimers. This has given succour to our retirees and they are happy about it.

What makes this superior to the non-contributory system is that retirees were not guaranteed about whether they will get money to survive on immediately they retired or not. But under this scheme, they are sure of getting money to survive  immediately they retired. What they need do is just for them to alert us that they have retired and their money would then be paid after verification exercises had been carried out.”

Okoduwa revealed Trustfund Pension will soon  embark  on a nationwide revalidation exercise for retirees that were handed over to it by the NSITF. He added that current data of the retirees will enable the Trustfund update its databank to serve its publics optimally.

“TrustFund will soon begin a nationwide revalidation exercise for retirees that were handed over to us by the NSITF to determine their current data status. You find that we do not use the word verification but revalidation. The reason is because we have these retirees in our databank and what we are just simply doing is to update our data to be able to serve everybody that was  handed over to us.

The exercise will enable us know whether they are still alive, dead, or changed address. It is true that we can get the data we need through banks but we want to use the exercise to know our members physically. We will not  accept proxies. Even if some are sick or indisposed, we will go to wherever they are to see them physically to ascertain their true current data status.

Other things we are interested in include their account numbers, banks and whether their next-of-kin is still the same person they filled at the point of their exit,” he said.

The inability of the contributors to access their contribution has indeed been causing some disquiet and this has been pointed out as a lacuna in the new pension contributory scheme.

But Okoduwa explained that  the inability of the contributors to access their contribution while they are still working is not peculiar to Nigeria saying that is the practice worldwide.

His words: “Pension is meant to provide succour to workers when they are retired. It is not supposed to be accessed by workers when they are still working and this is not peculiar to Nigeria.

That is the practice worldwide. Pension fund is a long term project and it cannot be mismanaged because the National Pension Commission (Pencom) is on top of the situation and there are adequate regulations in the Pension Act to guarantee safety of the fund.

Part of the regulation is that the Custodians can only invest in equity, Federal Government bonds, State Government bonds. These are instruments that can guarantee the safety of the funds.”

He also allayed fears over the crash in the capital markets saying, “the fund is safe and contributors need not to entertain any fear regarding the slump in the capital market.

Pension fund worldwide is long term and therefore reading short term meaning of the prevailing circumstances in the capital market will not be applicable to the tenets of pension fund management.”

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