By Marie-Therese Nanlong
SINCE the inception of the Governor Simon Lalong’s All Progressives Congress, APC-led administration in Plateau State, the Government has tried to introduce policies and programmes which it feels will add value to governance and give the citizens a sense of belonging in the State.
Though some of the policies have been embraced by majority of the citizens, few others have become contentious and rejected on the ground that they feel would not benefit the generality of the people. Among such contentious policies is the bill before the State House of Assembly seeking to introduce the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, to the state public workers.
Many civil servants are skeptical about the new pension scheme and asking why the government would want to introduce the scheme when federal staff in the scheme are allegedly having tales of woe to tell. They claim the federal government was not faithful in remitting the contributions and deductions from the retired workers and that the unfortunate former workers now live in penury as they cannot access pension from the scheme.
Though there has been a public hearing and the bill passed through the first reading on the floor of the House, among those kicking against the passage of the bill is of the Joint Union of Plateau State owned Tertiary Institutions; JUPTI, which protested at the premises of the State House of Assembly, demanding that members be exempted from the proposed CPS.
The Union claimed that the Treasury Single Account, TSA, being implemented in the state is adversely affecting the activities of tertiary institutions hence the need to warn the Assembly against the dangers of introducing CPS to its members.
Leading the protest, JUPTI Chairman, Paul Dakogol contended that the said bill gives protection to the Government at the expense of workers and as such, they would not risk their money being deducted without government living up to expectation.
Speaking with Pension and You, Dakogol said, “You will recall that on the 20th April, 2017 we made a presentation during the public hearing on this bill before the House Committee on Finance, stating why we want to be exempted from the scheme. We are here to reiterate our position; rejecting the passage of the bill and the implementation of the contributory pension scheme on the Plateau State workers especially the State-owned tertiary institutions considering our peculiarities.”
He maintained that State-owned tertiary institutions which include Plateau State Polytechnic, Barkin Ladi; College of Health, Zawan; State College of Heath, Pankshin; College of Arts, Science and Technology, Kurgwi, College of Education, Gindiri and College of Agriculture, Garkawa have an existing pension and gratuity scheme that is meeting their needs.
“The bill itself gives protection to government at the expense of the workers; for instance, where there is a case of default in remittance by the employer, the complaint is forwarded to the Governor. This leaves the workers at the mercy of government. The present pension and gratuity scheme should be strengthened via legislative framework and made more effective in the face of current reality and the institutions allowed to manage the funds in a manner that will guarantee payment of terminal benefits as at when due. Where it becomes very necessary to make some amendment in the present defined pension and gratuity scheme to accommodate any current reality in terms of funding, all stakeholders at tertiary institutions should be taken along by way of interaction and enlightenment.”
While expressing fears that government may not live up to expectation in remitting its share, he insisted that “there is no guarantee that if the scheme is implemented in Plateau State, present and successive government will be faithful in its remittance considering our present experience in the implementation of the TSA where the policy makers say one thing but do a different thing thereby turning our institutions into an eyesore.
The House should investigate why organizations like the Army, Police and other security agencies and Ebonyi State etc have to opt out of the Scheme; the proposed bill is very technical and complex in its computation of final entitlement to workers.
The Union also request the House to investigate the operation of TSA and the Ministry of Finance should be called to order to stop the illegal withholding of 25% of school fees paid by students without genuine reasons.” However, placards displayed at the protest had inscriptions such as : “Contributory pension is full of manipulations; it is exploitative; other States are withdrawing from Pencom, why would Plateau want to join?; House of Assembly, please etc.”
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Mr. Peter Azi, who received the protesters commended the Union for being peaceful in its approach and assured that the Government is a worker-friendly.
He added that the government would always find a middle ground in resolving any disagreement the workers.