PenCom loses steam with micro pension initiative

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MATTHEW OTOIJAGHA
In spite of the huge funds expended on the micro pension initiative by the National Pension Commission (PenCom), there are indications that the scheme which was conceived to capture about 250,000 workers from the informal sector, has ran into a storm.
 
PenCom in a statement in October 2016 maintained that it would release the guidelines in mid-2017 and commence the scheme by end of the year. This, vision was halted by the new leadership in the commission.
 
The assumption of PenCom leadership by the Acting Director-General, Mrs. Aisha Dahiru-Umar, seemed to have slowed down major initiatives conceived by her predecessors, especially the micro pension scheme which was rigorously pursued during the tenure of the former Director General, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu.
 
The new leadership of PenCom, which has been slow with little or no action, deflated the momentum already gained in the quest to entrench the micro pension scheme by redeploying the Head of the department who has done great works on the initiative.
 
Investigations revealed that staffs that are not knowledgeable on vital operations of the commission were assigned sensitive responsibilities leading to slowing down of activities in the commission.
 
According to the Commission, the micro pension scheme is expected to help boost the pension contributors to 20 million Nigerians by 2019 and 30 million by the year 2024. It is also expected to generate about N3 trillion to the pension assets, while mobilizing about 12 million contributors within five years.
 
The development is against the backdrop of efforts and huge funds deplored to the commencement of the scheme, setting up of micro pension department, among others.
However, the implication of the scheme not taking off as planned is that Nigerian workers in the informal sector would continue to be susceptible to old age poverty.
 
Micro pensions is a scheme targeted at self-employed people, especially those with irregular income, usually in the informal sector and are largely financially uninformed with limited or no access to financial services, especially pension plan. This segment, which is estimated to be 70 per cent of the country’s population, largely exists in Nigeria as artisans and self-employed persons.
 
Former, Head Micro Pension Department, Polycarp Anyanwu, had earlier said the commission has been collaborating with chambers of commerce, as well as other government agencies in charge of small businesses, such as Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDAN) and is working on guidelines for the commencement of the scheme.
During a previous chat, Anyanwu had explained that micro pension initiative exists for the provision of pension coverage to self-employed persons. “Micro pension initiative exists for the provision of pension coverage to self-employed persons.
 
‘’In Nigeria, it covers three strata of income earners namely lowest, middle and high income earners. The commission is working assiduously to enroll 250,000 contributors within six months of the commencement of the initiative. The scheme is an offshoot of the pension industry five year strategic plans to expand the coverage of the CPS to 20 million contributors by 2019.
 
Anyanwu further said, “The commission is also targeting the self-employed in various trades and professions in Nigeria such as artisans, accountants, lawyers, mechanics, tailors, market men/women, hair dressers, architects, engineers among others.
 
‘‘We have reviewed the implementation of micro pension in other jurisdictions like Kenya and Ghana; formulated Guidelines and Framework on Micro Pension; consulted licensed Pension Industry Operators and enhanced its information and communications technology capacity to accommodate the scheme.

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