Court orders NNPC to pay retirees harmonized pension

By Onozure Dania

The National Industrial Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC), to immediately pay the harmonized pensions to the affected retirees of the NNPC.

The judge ordered the two defendants, NNPC and NNPC Pension Fund Limited to pay the harmonize pension to the Claimants from January 1st, 1997 to date in accordance with the Provision of Section 173  of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).

Justice Elizabeth Oji gave the two defendants 90 days within which to comply with the order, while also awarding N20,000 costs against them.

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The judge made the order in a judgment delivered on Monday, July 20.

In the suit No. NICN/LA/329/2019 filed by Dr. Ikechukwu Nwobodo and 13 others suing for themselves, and on behalf of other concerned retired pensioners of the NNPC, through their Counsel, Adeleke Agbola, the aggrieved NNPC retirees among other reliefs, sought an order of mandamus to compel the defendants to pay to the claimants forthwith all accrued pensions calculated with effect from 1st January 1997 on emoluments currently earned by their serving counterparts as prescribed under the Federal Government Policy on Harmonization of Pensions.

Justice Orji, directed the firms to pay the harmonised pension to the claimants from January 1, 1997, till date, in accordance with Section 173 of the 1999 Constitution.

The NNPC had contended that the payment of pension should be based on affordability and sustainability.

But, rejecting the argument, Justice Oji noted that a Federal Government Civil Service Circular in 1998 directed all government departments to implement harmonised pensions for public service retirees.

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The judge held: “The defendants are hereby directed to pay to the Claimants forthwith all accrued pensions calculated with effect from 1st of January, 1997 on emoluments currently earned by their serving counterparts…and subsequently all such pensions and when due.

“The defendants’ decision to pay the claimant pensions on the basis of ‘affordability and sustainability’ or ex gratias is ultra vires, null, and void.

“The defendants are hereby directed to comply fully with the provisions of Sections 39 of the Pension Reform Act… and to fully fund the pension scheme in accordance with the directives of National Pension Commission.

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