Contributors to the pension scheme have described the delay occasioned by unwarranted administrative bottlenecks in paying their legitimate funds lodged with Trustfund Pension Limited, as criminal, and therefore called on the National Pension Commission (PenCom) to look into the development.
A pensioner, who identified himself as Hakeem Olarewaju Ojo, 54, lamented his ordeal, saying he was processing his documentation since he was 50, with a view to accessing part of his deposited fund with the Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) without success.
He said he had to wait till last year when he officially retired from the service before he approached the PFA again. His words: “I started making frantic efforts to access my money when I attained the age of 50, but because of demands like bring this document today, bring that document tomorrow; check back next week; I became frustrated and abandoned the whole exercise.
“When I eventually left Flour Mills, I commenced the full process for the payment of a lump sum out of my deposited fund. I was on it from January 2019 and later took ill. My first son was going to Amuwo Odofin office nearly every week to tell them that I was critically ill and needed money to buy drugs, but it was the same old story.
“However, by divine providence, I was able to survive the ailment and back on my feet. I went back complaining bitterly that I want my pension contribution having submitted all the required documents.
“I was told the fault was from PenCom. It was until August 2019 that I eventually received credit alert. The question is, what if I had died in the process; tell me, how long it would have taken my beneficiary to access my money from these people?”
Another contributor, Albert Akpor Uba, who shared a similar experience, described the activities of the staff at Trustfund Pension office at Amuwo Odofin as not only criminal but also leaning towards fraud.
Uba, a journalist said: “When I was 50, I decided to access my contributions, and perhaps, get paid a lump sum but I was told that my former employer was yet to remit the entire sum that I contributed. However, I approached my former employer and it didn’t take much time to get it remitted.
“Then came the ordeal: officials at the Amuwo Odofin office of Trustfund Pension could make you go mad with their request for all manner of documents.
“In my case, I had changed my surname and that required a sworn affidavit and publication in one of the national dailies, which I did. I submitted all the required documents, including the National Identification Card, and International Passport to the PFA since October last year.
“I was told that the documents have been forwarded to their head office in Abuja, for approval; but as I speak to you now, I am yet to get my contributions.
“I went to the Amuwo Odofin office again and was told that my forms were returned on the grounds that regional offices now had the power to pay pensioners their money; and that in my case, my documents would be scan afresh and sent to Abuja for approval before payment could be affected.
“Meanwhile, this was the money I was expecting since last year, and now we are in the first quarter of the year 2020.”
Responding to the claims after being contacted, the Regional Manager Lagos, Trustfund Pensions, Obiora Ozoekwem, said the process of benefit application processing generally has been straight forward since the introduction of the new Enhanced Contributor Registration System (ECRS), an electronic payment system introduced by PenCom.
He noted that PFAs in collaboration with the Regulator has been working round the clock to resolve most of the teething problems being encountered, as is usually the case with every new system.
He maintained that PFAs are no longer allowed to submit hard copy applications, as was the case before, noting that if a customer had a name or date of birth discrepancies, all the customer needed to do was just to swear an affidavit to that effect to reconcile the names or produce an age declaration respectively.
He said: “The new rule mandates that every Nigerian citizen should register with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and get their National Identity Number (NIN) generated, which should carry all info about that individual, be it name or date of birth.
“So for every time the information you have with your PFA does not match with the NIMC info, your application cannot be electronically transmitted until such corrections are made and after which it will be submitted by the PFA to PenCom for change.
“So our advice to everyone is not to wait until retirement to cross-check and be sure that the information they have with NIMC tallies with what they have with their PFAs because no payment approval can be sort outside this process.”
“Before now, the process of submitting such change to PenCom was centralised at our Head office because of its delicate nature but as a PFA considering the long queue of requests, we had gone ahead to decentralise the process so as contributors reconcile their discrepancies, they can walk into any branch of Trustfund Pensions and their request will be uploaded directly to PenCom for an update to enable the processing of your application.