By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Monsuru Olowoopejo
LEADING Pension Fund Administrator, PFA, Trustfund Pensions Plc, few days ago, gathered pensioners and prospective pensioners in Lagos on its platform, to update them on trends in the nation’s pension industry. The forum held at Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, also afforded PFA, the opportunity to get feedbacks from them and proffer solutions.
Addressing the participants, Regional manager for the company, Mr. Obiora Ozoekwem, noted that the forum was to ensure that retirees did not fall prey to antics of some desperate and unscrupulous operators in the financial system.
Customer Relations Manager, CRM, John Opara, while responding to some of the pensioners, complaints, further explained the gathering was to reconnect with two categories of customers: those who wiould be exiting service in six months and those that had retired.
Misinformation and conception
Opara said: “We believe that it is important we have close contact with the retirees because we are dealing with human beings and not robots. We still have to engage them often. We also use the forum to inform them of trends in the industry. There are several misinformation and misconception in the society. It is through this forum that we dissuade that misconception.”
On minimum wages, the CRM emphasized that under the scheme, retirees were not entitled to increase in minimum wage because they had exited from service, saying, “we cannot increase the funds that had been contributed before the owner retires from active service. Even if the minimum wage is increased, they cannot benefit from it.
For those who retired under this scheme, the government pays the accrued rights and the contribution. That is why we call it consolidated because it is subjected to programme withdrawal where the customer gets a certain percentage from the fund and the rest is shared as a monthly pension.”
On the need for PFAs to intervene in pension fund remittance, Opara said: “There are three levels of intervention that any PFA could embark upon as stated in the pension reform act. One is statutory demand letter, which is a letter written by PFAs to employers. This letter is often written seven days after payment of salaries to remind the employers on need to remit their contribution to the PFA after deducting from their employees.
“Where the employer is not complying, we write to employers and zonal offices of Pencom; alerting the pension commission that the employer wasn’t ready to pay his share into his employees account. When the issue continues unabated, the final stage occurs, where we generates the consolidated fund and send a copy to National Pension Commission, PenCom office.
“The commission will use its recovery agents which include lawyers, accountants and others, to visit the company and check if they are complying. After the visit, if the PFA alerts correspond, Pencom fines the firm and they pay their contribution. And that is why we have often advised our customers to visit any of our offices and appeal that they generate their retirement savings account statement. That will allow them engage in self audit.”
Earlier, some of the pensioners had alerted Trusfund Pensions on some of the antics by operators they have been exposed to. According to Adetona Emilola, they were told that eight years there would be no cash left in their Retirement Saving Accounts, RSAs, after retirement, urging them to withdraw their funds from their PFAs.
Another pensioner, Mr. Evans Ndiok, said the Contributory pension Scheme, CPS, was perfect because it prevented them from queuing monthly to receive their benefits, saying, “but the state of the economy had made it difficult to live on monthly pensions from our RSA.”