Mr. Moses Ajibade retired from the Nigerian prison Service since 2016. In an interview with him, he gave reasons for his predicament over his pension and explained why his pension is delayed. Excerpts:
What’s your name and where did you work?
My name is Mr. Moses Ajibade. I retired from the Nigeria Prisons Service since June 2016, but have not been paid my retirement benefits. My family is suffering due to my inability to receive my retirement benefits almost two years after I exited active service. Up till now, my benefits have not been paid. Please help me. Hunger is killing me and my family.
Delay in paying my benefit has disrupted the peace in my family and set my wife against me.
I have a problem with my wife presently because of poverty. Please, have pity on me and do something.
Why is your pension delayed?
They told me at the pension office that delay of my retirement benefits is as a result of non-release of the accrued right component of my benefits. Accrued right, which is duly backed by law, is a major concern affecting the contributory pension scheme.
The Pension Act requires that government should pay the accrued rights of workers who transited to the Contributory Pension Scheme in addition to the savings in their RSAs.
To ensure that government pays the accrued rights, PenCom came up with a policy that workers entitled to accrued rights cannot access their RSAs until government pays their accrued rights into such RSAs.
This policy has however left many retirees unable to access their benefits months after retirement.
There have been calls for PenCom to review its policy and allow retirees to access to their RSAs as they await their usually delayed accrued rights.
A source at PenCom, said the problem is not with PenCom but the government and that the commission has been consistently nudging the government to release funds to settle the backlog. The source further said it was not possible to allow retirees access RSAs as the accrued right is usually higher than the contributions accumulated in the RSAs.
It is quite a pity that a lot of people placed in government offices are there not really putting their best even when they know that the life of others is largely affected by their unserious attitude to work. Most of the pensioners in question served for 35 years, thus giving out the most useful part of their lives for service.
If the economy is in good shape, we would not rely on pension money. By the circumstances of our age, most of us are no longer relevant in the labour market. Government should expedite action on this matter.
Pension system encourages corruption
The pension system in Nigeria lack care and respect for the senior citizens. Except pensioners receive fair and prompt treatment, the country is unwittingly strengthening the temptation of civil servants to be corrupt.
Any society that cannot treat its elderly citizens with care and respect advertises its disregard for values. Retirees should be paid their entitlements without any stress, the present practice where civil servants at both federal and state levels have to wait for four to five years before they get their gratuity is not ideal.
They seem to derive pleasure from the hopelessness of retirees. Proper records are not kept. Unscrupulous officials demand different documents from bewildered retirees.
How do you see the contributory pension scheme?
The expectation was that the private sector-driven national pension scheme introduced by the Obasanjo administration would fast-track payment of pensions to retired civil servants and that the emergence of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) will eliminate inefficiency and corruption in the system; this has been counter- productive in some cases.
It’s not because the new scheme is not good, but the Nigerian factor is at play. Many employers have circumvented the Pension Act by deducting pension contributions from the salaries of employees without remitting them and the employers’ mandatory contribution to the pension administrators.
It is when the employees disengage and approach their PFAs for their pension entitlements that they realize that there is nothing in their accounts.
The employers particularly in the private sector breach the rule with impunity. Despite the prescribed sanctions in the Act, how many employers have been brought to book? It is because we don’t value the contributions of retirees in this country. In other climes, the welfare of senior citizens is accorded high priority.
The pension payment system, with regard to retired civil servants who are not covered by the new system introduced by the Obasanjo administration, must be reviewed.
Humiliating and maltreating persons who had spent a better part of their lives serving the country is unacceptable. It is curious that the usually discourteous pension payment officers, who derive joy in humiliating pensioners, hardly realize that they would also end up as pensioners someday.