By FUNMI KOMOLAFE & VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
AS the contentious issue of gratuity payment continues to generate divergent views by concerned stakeholders, President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, in this interview with Pension and You, said the planned amendment of the Pension Reform Act, PRA, of 2004, must clearly make the payment of gratuity compulsory and unambiguous.
THERE are plans to amend the 2004 Pension Reform Act, PRA. What will be TUC’s input?
My predecessors have already made our position public, so I do not want to belabour the matter. However something we all know is that, we must stress the issue of gratuity. We want it to be clearly incorporated in the amendment, because when you make it very loose that government or employer can choose to pay or not to pay the gratuity, you are giving them the opportunity not to pay gratutity.
So, we want it made mandatory. It is something that we are hoping the amendment will state clearly because without the gratuity aspect, I am telling you we are being paid piecemeal and it is not the wish of any retiree to earn his or her pension piecemeal.
What are the benefits in gratuity payment?
The benefit is that you get a chunk of your benefits and choose what you want to do with it. But situations where they tell you that before they give you 25 percent of your accumulative contributions, and then later another 25 percent, how would that sustain you?
When you are retiring, you need to make yourself comfortable; probably you want to go into a very heavy investment, get your money in bulk then invest in whatever profitable venture you want to go into. Then you go back and relax thinking of after 25 percent. But in this case, when it is paid piecemeal, say 25 percent, retiree will ask, how do I get my balance of 75 percent ? That is is another stress on the retiree.
People have talked about situations where some kind of soft loans should be given to retirees. What is your take on it?
I don’t believe in loans. Let he or she be given what is due to that person, because after serving meritoriously for 35 years or being retired at the age of 60 years, I mean what do you need loans for? That will give you stress. You see, life should be sweet after retirement and not talking of stress that will make you start thinking of how to repay such loan. One should simply invest, relax and enjoy the dividends of your investment.
Are you in support of the plan to increase the contribution ratio?
The government should increase the contribution ratio. The employers’ contribution should be doubled. Right now it’s 50:50. We want a situation where if the employee is contributing 50 percent of such equity, the employer should contribute 100%.
What about private sector employers who will argue that they don’t have as much money as government?
In fact with due respect, benefit accruable to retirees of the private sector is much higher than those in the public sector; theirs is even better. You can imagine a director retiring, particularly in the civil service, there is no director that will retire and get more than five million Naira.
Does this not give room for corruption? In fact, Comrade Adams Oshiomole would say, if you do not pay a living wage, what people cannot get on the table, they will take under the table.
Corruption should be viewed entirely as another topic of discussion because when you get into that, a lot of things are considered. So, for now let us just address the issue. Yes, public sector workers particularly are not getting a fair deal from their employers.
So, let us see how we can improve on that. People are sometimes corrupt, because of poor remuneration and perhaps in order to secure their future especially after retirement. It is assumed that by the time adequate payments are made to them, if “corruption” is tied down to that, corruption will be mitigated one way or the order. But again, you know that corruption is a matter of the heart, it is somebody’s orientation, somebody’s attitude to life.
If you choose to live beyond or over and above your livelihood, that is up to you. If you want to live a very comfortable life, cut your coat according to your size. So, that is the basic truth, it has to do with our own orientation. It does not have to do with the kind of leaders who are not leading by example.
If you want to really address this monster called corruption, leaders should lead by example to make sure that wherever you are, no matter the level of your office let’s try to minimize corruption, I am assuring you that Nigeria will be better off.