Pensioners are agitating for an increase in their monthly stipend, even as the Federal Government has yet to clear a backlog of pensions owed some of its retirees.
Specifically, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners is asking the government to pay retired civil servants a minimum pension of N25,000.
This is coming about five months after the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria began the agitation for a new minimum wage of N56,000 for civil servants. The minimum wage is currently N18,000.
The President of the NUP, Dr. Abel Afolayan, in a statement obtained on Friday, said, “It needs to be pointed out that many pensioners under the Defined Benefits Scheme receive less than N10,000 per month. This can never be regarded as a minimum (or living) pension.
“With the present economic situation in the country, no pensioner should be paid less than N25,000.”
Afolayan complained about the government’s non-compliance with the constitutional provision that stipulated that pensions should be reviewed every five years or anytime the salary of civil servants was reviewed, whichever would come earlier.
“The last pension review was in July 2010; the next increase, in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) was due in July 2015,” he said.
He also said the harmonisation of old and new pensions had not been done as there was still a wide gap between the monthly pensions of officers of the same rank that retired at different times but the same age and the same statutory number of years in service.
The NUP president expressed worry over the non-payment of pension arrears and the rising complaints from the retirees about irregularities in their pension payment, many of which the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate reportedly failed to address.
He appealed to the Federal Government to fast-track the provision of funds to complete the verification of pensioners and make arrangement to pay the pension arrears.
While speaking on the 53.4 per cent pension increase, which was said to have been arbitrarily reduced to 33 per cent, he urged the Federal Government to reverse the decision as well as pay the arrears of the increase, along with the gratuities to the affected retirees.
He also pleaded for the immediate payment of the entitlements of some deceased pensioners to their families.
Afolayan urged the government to look into the plight of pensioners of the defunct Nigeria Airways, and Delta Steel Company.
He also said that the stoppage of a five per cent Federal Government counterpart funding of the local government pension fund should be reversed.
The Chairman, NUP, Federal Branch, Lagos, Dele Joseph said that employers were not promptly remitting to the relevant accounts the pension contributions of workers deducted from their salaries.
He said efforts made to stop the trend had proved abortive.
“For instance, members that have their accounts with Union Bank have not received their pensions for the month of August while other have got theirs,” he said.
The retirees launched a campaign for an upward review in their monthly pensions in May.
According to the pensioners, the increase in the pump price of petrol, which went up to N145 from N86.50 per litre on Wednesday, has made it imperative for the government to raise their monthly stipends in order to meet the expected increase in the prices of other essential goods and services.
Last year, the Pension Fund Administrators, in partnership with the National Pension Commission proposed N14,400 minimum monthly stipends for retirees in the Contributory Pension Scheme.
According to the draft guideline by the commission, informal sector workers and casual workers must have contributed for 120 and 135 months, respectively before they can enjoy the minimum pension.
The Pension Reform Act 2014 stated that PenCom should establish and maintain a fund to be known as the Pension Protection Fund for the benefits of eligible CPS retirees to guarantee minimum pensions.
According to the commission, part of the funding of the minimum guaranteed pension shall be obtained through an annual subvention of one per cent of the total monthly wage bill payable to employees in the public service of the federation.
It shall also be funded through annual pension protection levy paid by the commission and all licensed pension operators at a rate to be determined by the commission from time to time, as well as by income from investment of the PPF.