NATIONAL Pension Commission, PenCom, has commended the National Assembly, for its efforts at finding lasting solution to fraud, non-payment of pension, incessant verification exercise and other negative issues bedeviling the defunct pension scheme, otherwise known as Pay- As- You- Go, PAYG, saying they are damaging the contributory pension scheme.
Speaking against the recent N700billion fraud rocking the Pension unit of the Office of Head of Service of Federation, and the ongoing Joint Senate Committee on Establishment and Pension, State and Local Government Affairs, PenCom’s Commissioner, Inspectorate Department, Dr. Musa Ibrahim, said all hands must be on deck to ensure that the old scheme no longer smears the contributory pension scheme.
According to him, “We happy about the Senate committee’s investigation is doing on two counts. One, we are happy as people who are responsible for Pension reform matters in Nigeria, we do not want any pensioner to suffer, we do not want any pension to go without his pension being paid.
So, we are very happy if there is a deliberate attempt by the legislative arm of government and which would by implication force the executive arm of government to try to address this problem. Second also because it does a lot of damage to the new system, because whenever you hear fraud, whenever you hear a pensioner dies, whenever you hear a pensioner is not paid, what comes to mind is that, what is inside the mind of people is that there is PENCOM.
There is a new pension scheme; a distinction is hardly ever made between what is new and what is old. So, we are very happy from the perspective of regulators that if this issue is addressed and if it is addressed well, such that every pensioner will be paid his pension as and at when due, that will give rise to some confidence building that will also impact on our own system.
What we are envisaging and what we are hoping that will come out of this exercise is that may be there will be a deliberate attempt to make some kind of, I don’t know what you are going to call it, because pensioners are tired of hearing of verification or registration, all enrolment exercise.”
“I think whatever measure this committee after hearing all the thing that will come out of it, whatever it deems the most effective way in doing, we are hoping that it will first of all, one, establish the pensioners that are in existence, two to establish the liability that is due to them, either by way of non payment, by way of arrears, or by way of increment.
This is consistent with the demands of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which says whenever salaries are increased or if they are not increased in five years, but pension must be increased. But as we know, that there has been some increases that are supposed to be reflected up to date some are not.
So, we are hoping that the exact liability will be established and then the exact determination of pensioners and a mechanism in which they could be verified without much hardship will come out of this such that subsequently, people who are being paid pension will be paid as at when due.
Now, that will help us in two ways. In one way, it will not smear our system because what is happening is that whenever a pensioner first died, whenever there is a queue, whenever there is a monthly verification, whenever there is issue that comes, is pension and pensioner. What is responsible for pension issues in Nigeria is PENCOM and then it touches on us, it smears the new system.”
Dr. Ibrahim added that “we are glad to say that over 47 thousand people have been going through our system and they are receiving their pension as at when due. The good thing is that the only way in which this mechanism can be carried out is to entrust everybody with his pension in his own name in his own account and consequently nobody can take it out of that account, even in death.
There has to be sufficient records to establish that the beneficiaries have been established and by way of even going to a court of law to get a letter of administration before that payment can be made. So, in this new system that has been ushered in by the Pension Reform Act 2004, we are still grappling with another system that we left behind with its own attendant problems that are numerous.
But we are hoping that and we are very glad that the Senate had come to terms to say that they must, like they are going to deal with this problem and they are going to deal with it once and for all in the most effective manner.”