Pensioners task FG on outstanding 20.4% deduction from their entitlement

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Description: Scrabble letters spelling the words pension fund Photo taken on: May 31st, 2006

Matthew Otoijagha

A group of pensioners under the aegis of the Association of Retired Federal Senior Public Officers of Nigeria (ARFESPON), has urged both the federal government and Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate(PTAD) to make specific statement on the outstanding 20.4 per cent deductions from their pension entitlement made by the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration since 2010.

ARFESPON, though expressed its appreciation to PTAD for the recent six months areas it paid its members, however said both PTAD and federal government have decided to sweep the outstanding 20.4 percent arrears of deductions from their entitlements for eight years under the carpet without any comment despite several calls by the various pensioners’ groups.

President of Lagos Chapter of ARFESPON, Mr. Olufemi Odewabi, while addressing the media in Lagos, said it was painful to the pensioners that government decided not to yield to their demand for payment of the outstanding arrears.

He said for almost eight years, his members and other pensioners’ groups had been calling on government to direct attention to this, but that neither government nor its agency for retirees under the Defined Benefit Scheme deemed it fit to say something in that regard. Odewabi urged President Muhammadu Buhari and Sharon Ikeazor of PTAD, to comment on the matter.

Explaining how the eight-year arrears came about, Odewabi said it was incurred by government when government affected a 53.4 increase in workers’ salaries and pensioners’ benefits. He said a committee was set up by the administration of former president, Goodluck Jonathan to look into the 53.4 per cent increase in pension entitlements, but the committee made some illegal deductions from pensioners’ benefits.

According to him, the committee recommended deductions such as pensioners benefits tax, contributory pension, housing and NHIS, all totaling 20.4 per cent and also recommended that only 33 per cent of the increase affected by government should be paid to pensioners.

Describing the development as wrong and illogical, the ARFESPON Chairman said: “It is a rape on the right of the pensioners, viewing this deduction from possible two dimensions; it is obvious that the conclusion of the committee that reviewed the approved 53.4 per cent increase for pensioners acted in nullity and was even not logical in arriving at such conclusions.”

Furthermore, he argued that the call for the review of pension increase was wrong and a deliberate intention to short-change pensioners, saying it was tantamount to economic sabotage. He questioned the tax deductions, adding that pensioners’ benefits are not supposed to be taxed.

He also questioned the deduction for contributory pension scheme when they were still under the Defined Benefit Scheme. Odewabi urged the government to review the deduction and ensure the payment of the eight years arrears.

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