The Aches and Pains of Nigerian Retirees
Author: Mr. Musa Abdulkadir, The Managing Consultant, Herald Human Resources Consulting Ltd
The enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004 and its subsequent amendment in 2014, created the impression that its implementation will substantially resolve, if not completely eliminate the perennial problems of retirees in Nigeria.
These problems include but are not limited to:
- The virtually endless wait for the commencement of pension payment by helpless retirees some of whom die on queues, when their feeble bones succumb to the distress of incessant validation and revalidation parades usually conducted at the State or Local Government offices.
- Irregular payment of pension stipends as paying authorities allow the payments to fall into arrears with the lame excuse of paucity of funds.
- Inadequate monthly stipends
The foregoing problems are well known to the public as they are highly celebrated in our press.
But one of the biggest hurdles for pensioners especially in the public service which unfortunately is borne in silence by the pensioners is their initial documentation. This exercise is entirely unknown to the public as it does not catch the attention of our pressmen and even civil-society organizations.
To qualify for normal retirement from the Nigeria Public Service, an employee has to clock 35years in service or sixty years in age, whichever occurs first.
Some of the documents the retiring worker has to provide include copies of:
- Letter of employment
- Letter of initial deployment
- Letters of all transfers and redeployments throughout his/her entire years in service
- Letter(s) of promotion
- Birth certificate or age declaration
- Marriage certificate(s)
- Certificate of change of name
- Educational certificates
- Transfer of service from one state to another or from federal civil service to state civil service or vice versa, where applicable.
Any of these documents that the retiree is unable to produce has to be replaced by a sworn affidavit which he/she has to ‘persuade’ the relevant officials to accept.
In virtually every modern organization there is usually a department charged with the responsibility of keeping individual records of employees. Such departments or sections, whatever name called, exist in our public services. It is thus unfair to saddle prospective retirees with the responsibility of supplying information that should normally be held in their individual personal files.
Also knowing very well our penchant for exploiting authority for personal gain, there is no gainsaying the extent this can be exploited to the detriment of prospective retirees.
The advantages of the contributory pension scheme under the Pension Reform Act include:
- Absence of qualifying period of service for enrolment in the scheme.
- Contributors’ ownership of funds deposited in the Retirement Savings Account, as not even PENCOM can access the RSA without the consent of the Employee/Retiree.
- Flexibility; as an employee moves his/her pension savings account from one employer to another when he/she changes job and from one PFA to another as he/she desires.
- On retiring, the pensioner is allowed to choose between programmed withdrawal administered by his PFA or purchase of an annuity with his/her RSA funds from his/her preferred insurance firm. The retiree can change from former to latter during his retirement, though return from the annuity to programmed withdrawal is not tenable. In spite of these and other advantages the weaknesses of the contributory pension scheme lies in;
- Failure of the employer to key into the scheme
- Failure of some participating employers to deduct or contribute or refuse to remit to PFAs after deduction;
- In spite of the supervising and sanctioning power reposed in PENCOM by relevant laws, these weaknesses are being exploited with impunity by some employers notably State Governments.
The National Pension Commission second quarter 2019 report shows that though 25 states of the federation have enacted pension laws in line with the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), only Kaduna state and the Federal Capital Territory have commenced full implementation of the scheme, while ten states are in varying stages of partial compliance.
For a law that was passed initially in 2004 and amended in 2014, this is disgraceful when measured by even the most lenient standard possible.
The problems of retirees in Nigeria are legion and cannot be discussed fully in one article. Our focus here is on documentation of retirees and the avoidable problems deriving therefrom. Usually, these result in retirees being subjected to unbearable initial hardship of staying for up to three or more years before initial access to their benefits. This tortuous initial documentation and subsequent perennial verifications are supposedly aimed at preventing or minimizing fraudulent practices in the system. How little or much these efforts have scratched the surface of the monumental fraud and corruption in the pension system in Nigeria is open to public debate or jugdement.