Mr. Odubale Adeniyi is a registered pensioner with the Nigerian Union Pensioners (NUP). He spoke with Matthew Otoijagha on pension issues and on his personal ordeal since he retired from work in an interview, right in the office of the NUP in Lagos. Excerpts:
What is your name and when did you retire?
My name is Odubale Adeniyi. I retired in 2004 from the federal civil service. I enjoyed my pension up till 2012 before I started having problems and it was stopped. But now my pension payment has been restored.
You said your pension was suspended fromFederal Government’s payroll. What happened?
My problem started when our pension was still under the Head of Service. My pension suddenly stopped coming. I was omitted from the payroll. For over a year, it was not rectified. When I came to PTAD, they had to check where the problem was coming from. They rectified it. The very month I came was the month my pension was restored and my name added to the payroll. My friend was also omitted from the payroll and I am trying to help her rectify the problem.
What is the detail of your friend’s problem with monthly pension?
The case I am attending to is not my personal case. It is a friend’s case. Her name is Mrs. Akinyemi Monisola. She has been suspended from pension since 2012. I don’t know why she was removed from the payroll. Maybe it was just an omission, but I came to PTAD to correct it. They have been attending to me well since I came. It has happened to me personally. I came to rectify it and since then my name has been on the payroll. So, I came to also assist Mrs. Akinyemi to rectify her own omission so that she can start receiving monthly pensions.
You said the omissions happened when the office of the Head of Service was still in charge of your pension. Why were there cases of omission of names of pensioners from the payroll at the office of the Head of Service?
I won’t be able to give the reasons. But, that time, the computerization was not as effective as it is now. That time, when you go there, you have to go and look for your file and it can take you a year before you can get your file. But this has changed. Once your name is captured now, it is easy to trace your data. Once they press the computer, the records will come up. It is easier now to solve pension problems now than when it was at the Head of Service.
Before the problem was corrected, how long did you stay without pension?
I lived without pension for about 16 months before it was restored. That was when we were under the Head of Service.
What appeal do you have for the government on behalf of pensioners?
Government should kindly pay those that have not been paid their pension arrears. Pensioners are suffering in Nigeria. Those that have been omitted from the monthly payroll should also be added to ensure that pensioners do not suffer undue hardship.
What is your assessment of pension administration in Nigeria now?
There is huge improvement in the way pension is now being handled in Nigeria. They are improving day by day. Every month, we receive our pension not later than 27th or 28th of the month. That is an improvement compared to when we waited for months to be paid. This is good for us. But, there is still need for improvement. All cannot be said to be well. There are some pensioners that have not been paid their pension arrears. So, you see, there is need for improvement. But, I can testify that they are improving. We need to reach a stage that whatever problem you take to the regulators; they should be able to rectify it.
What mechanisms do you suggest should be put in place to handles pensioners’ complaints?
Actually, there should be call centres where pensioners call in with their complaints and it will now be resolved in these centres and people calling them back. There can be complaints’ portal online where they send in e-mails of their complaints. . Again, pension authorities can train our pensioners to be able to resolve their complaints faster and to do it with empathy as well, because respect must be given to our pensioners.
What is your advice to Nigerians that are skeptical about the security of the funds in their pension accounts and if they will be able to access the funds at the right time?
With regards to safety of pension contributions, there are numerous well-functioning safeguards and protections embedded in the enabling legislation, as well as regulations issued by the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), to ensure the safety of pension contributions.
For example, there is a clear separation of roles between pension fund administrators (PFAs) and pension fund custodians (PFCs), which means custody of the funds is separate from management. Of note, since inception of the contributory pension scheme over 12 years ago, there has been no single instance of fraud or inability to meet obligations to contributors. I think that is quite commendable.