The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, says legal technicalities and attitudes of employers and other stakeholders must not hamper the objectives of the pension scheme in Nigeria.
Onnoghen, who spoke at a sensitisation workshop on the contributory pension scheme, identified the other stakeholders as Pension Fund Administrators and Pension Custodians.
The workshop was organised by National Pension Commission (PENCOM) for judges and senior judicial officers in Abuja.
“My lords, regulators and officers, I must caution that technicalities by lawyers, attitudes of certain employers, pension administrators and pension custodians must not hamper the good objectives of the Federal Government.
“As I held in Central Bank of Nigeria Verses Amao and Ors involving a similar scenario, it is disturbing because the people involved are senior citizens of this country who have contributed their quotas to the development of the nation during their prime.’’
He decried the attitude of the bank toward its pensioners, adding that it appeared not to see the injustice or inequality the government sought to redress through the contributory scheme.
“Appellant contends even in the face of statutory and constitutional provisions that the Central Bank of Nigeria is not part of the Federal Public Service for the purposes of pension and other retirement benefits,’’ he said.
Onnoghen advised that organisations in Nigeria should wear a human face in the treatment of senior citizens because it could be anybody’s turn to be one in the future.
“We must re-examine our attitude towards the senior citizens of this country so as not to make them regret their sacrifice for the nation in whatever capacity,’’ he said.
Onnoghen said that pension fund governance must be aligned with good corporate governance recognised as an important part and parcel of efficient pension system.
He said everybody owed this generation and generations yet unborn to ensure that pensioners who devoted their lives and strengths to serve Nigeria received their pension benefits promptly.
Onnoghen noted that in order to consolidate this consciousness, everybody must support the Federal Government’s fight against corruption.
He said this called for objectivity and impartiality by regulatory officials, accountability by pension administrators and transparency by pension fund custodians and other stakeholders.
Earlier, PENCOM Director-General, Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, said previous workshops conducted in 2013 by the agency for judges was remarkable in the Nigerian pension reform implementation.
She, however, said there had been challenges in the implementation because of the lack of adequate understanding of the responsibilities by stakeholders.
The director-general said some challenges also arose in the course of enforcing compliance on recalcitrant employers by the commission which ultimately were resolved in the courts.
Earlier, Mrs Roseline Bozimo, Administrator, National Judicial Institute, said the workshop was organised in realisation of the main objectives of the institute’s law.
She said this was the first workshop that had involved judges on the contributory pension scheme, laws, practices and ethics since the promulgation of the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Bozimo said that the National Judicial Institute was partnering PENCOM to ensure that there was an effective development of the nation’s pension laws.
She explained that the workshop would enhance and equip the judges in their skills for pension adjudication.