By Victor AhiumaYoung
Pensioners under the Contributory Pension Scheme, CPS, in Lagos, have given insight into why retirees in the state now live like destitute, lamenting that even welfare benefits allocated to them by the government do not get to them.
At a fasting and prayer session to seek divine intervention in their plights, they called for the removal of Pension matters from the Ministry of Establishment and Training, even as they called for the constitution of the board of the Lagos State Pension Commission, (LASPEC).
Addressing members, the Chairman of the group, Omisande Michael, among others, said “Sequel to the inability of the state government to attend to the plight of pensioners in Lagos State, we have therefore decided to bring our matter to the Almighty God for Divine intervention.
“It is surprising that at this present difficult time, the state government is still indebted to CPS pensioners who have retired since 2020 till date. This has turned these pensioners into beggars.
“While some are having serious health challenges, many are out of their homes, and children out of school, some are dead and many have become objects of pity in the state.
“The CPS was introduced to Lagos State workers in 2007 as a result of defects inherent in the Defined Benefit Scheme, DBS, such as corruption, inadequate funding, and bureaucratic bottleneck.
These defects gave birth to the CPS with the assurance that it was going to be better than the DBS.
“The CPS met us while we were in service under the DBS (old Scheme). This puts us at a serious disadvantage which calls for serious attention.
“Senior officers in the service ran away from the scheme when they discovered some demerits such as removal of gratuity, delay in the payment of Bonds (Entitlement) for years, non-remittance of our accrued benefits as of 2007 into our Retirement Saving Account, RSA, and paltry monthly pensions.
“A Director under this scheme earns an average of N70, 000 monthly while their counterpart in DBS and other states such as Ogun, Oyo earn an average of N250, 000 per month. Some of our CPS Pensioners who spent as much as 20 years in service or more were paid off out rightly with the token amount and have nothing coming to them monthly as pensions.
“Even for those earning monthly pensions, their monthly pensions remain static as against Section 210 sub-section 3 of the 1999 Constitution.
“So, there is a need for the overhauling of the scheme to actualize its objectives. The pensioners in Lagos State do not plan to jettison the scheme but want the scheme reformed because the government has invested so much in the scheme by putting a lot of structures on ground. Therefore, any agitation for cancelation shall be a waste of resources.
“The challenges that accompanied the CPS are so enormous that cannot be exhausted in this presentation, therefore we call for a round table discussion to enable us to exhaust all the identified problems.
“Considering the enormity of pensions’ challenges, it requires to be separated from the Establishment and Training Ministry to enable the government to tackle the issue of pensions appropriately as it has been persistent for years. The elderly have few numbers of years to enjoy their time and as such their matter requires urgent and prompt attention from time to time.
“They need to be honoured as they have played their roles to serve the state. This is the time for the government to reciprocate.
“The Lagos State Pension Commission, LASPEC, has no regulatory board that is responsible for monitoring and regulating the activities of the commission as contained in the act. If the board had been in place it would have solved most of the identified challenges facing the pensioners in the state. What is worth doing is worth doing well.
“We are aware that there are welfare allocations for pensioners since the inception of Contributory Pensions in the state but these allocations have not been expended on CPS pensioners. There have been promises upon promises of Health and Transportation welfare support since 2019 but it is yet to come to reality. All these are required to make pensioners live a better life. “On palliatives, even before the removal of subsidy, we have been in need of palliatives in the state. Pensioners should be considered as you remember those in active service.We therefore pray to the Almighty God to divinely intervene in the deplorable situation of Pensioners in Lagos State.”
They reiterated their demand for “immediate payment of the outstanding backlogs of bonds from 2020 till date, declaration of a state of emergency on pension matters in the state, and a committee be set up to review the implementation of the CPS to cater for all the inadequacies, implementation of the findings and recommendations of the report, Office of Special Adviser be created for pension matters, constitution of the governing board to regulate the activities of the LASPEC as contained in the act setting it up and giving pensioners priority in the welfare package such as in health, transportation and palliatives.”