A national survey on the Contributory Pension Scheme established over a decade ago by the Federal Government has revealed the dissatisfaction of some stakeholders with the implementation of the scheme.
In the survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria across states of the federation, some respondents, however, commended the Federal Government for initiating the scheme.
Meanwhile, many others believe that the relatively new scheme had compounded the woes of retired government workers in the country.
NAN reports that the Pension Reform Act came into effect on July 1, 2014 to govern and regulate the administration of the scheme for both public and private sector retired workers.
Under the Act, both employer and employee are required to contribute 10 per cent and eight per cent funding respectively.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration introduced the scheme to address the problems associated with non-payment of pensions for several years by the previous administrations under the old non-contributory scheme.
Critics of the contributory scheme have canvassed for a return to the old pension system, saying that the impression created about its advantages was misleading.
Some critics, who spoke with NAN in some states in the North East, said payment was not timely as promised prior to its introduction.
Malam Abdulrahman Sadiq, a civil servant in Bauchi State who retired nine months ago, said he had yet to receive his gratuity and pension contrary to his expectation.
Sadiq said that having been a career civil servant without any other means of livelihood, sustaining himself had become very challenging as he had yet to receive his entitlements.
Similarly, Dauda Aminu, another pensioner in Bauchi State, adjudged the old pension scheme of paying pension and gratuity to retirees to be better as it enabled a retiree to determine what to do with his money.
According to Aminu, the Pension Fund Administrators pay token as monthly pension, which is inadequate to sustain a retiree and his family.
In the view of Joseph Abdu, another retired civil servant, retirees should be allowed to plan their future by paying them their benefits in bulk and allowing them to determine how to invest their money.
Abdu said: “You work for a period of time and upon retirement, someone is there deciding for you how you go about spending you own money. To me, the idea looks too selfish.”
Malam Usman Abubakar, a Federal Government retiree in Jigawa State, described the contributory pension scheme as a fraud.
Abubakar said: “Unfortunately after retirement, the retiree goes home with only a portion of his contributions.
“Your Pension Fund Administration will tell you that the remaining part of the money will be kept for you to be servicing your monthly pension, while the rest will be invested in a business that no one knows.”
Abubakar described such an arrangement as unfair and unfavourable to retirees, urging the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to revert to the previous arrangement.
In Yola, Adamawa State, Federal Government retirees have called for a review of the 2004 Pension Act to address some grey areas.
Abraham Galadima, a former Director in the Federal Ministry of Education, complained that the old pension system was far better in terms of monthly pension entitlements.
Galadima said: “The new pension scheme has no human face; there is no reason why I should not be allowed to decide what to do with my money.
“I spent 35 years serving my country and at the end, I do not have complete access to my accumulated pension savings.”
Malam Umar Gabdo, another pensioner, said that the new pension law did not take into cognizance the rights of the retirees.
He said: “I prefer the old pension system because benefits are paid completely, in spite of the delays in payment.”
Gabdo, therefore, urged authorities concerned to review the Act, to enable retirees to have complete control over their benefits.
Abubakar Bamanga, a Federal pensioner who retired in 2011, said it took six months before he received his first pension money.
Also recounting his ordeal, Rev. Amos Ali, who retired in 2014, said he stayed for almost 11 months after retirement before his pension administrator started releasing his benefit.
Dauda Mains, the Adamawa State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, called on the Federal and State Governments to review the activities of those handling pensions matters, to enable the retirees get their benefits within the stipulated time.
Meanwhile, the Business Manager of Premium Pension Limited in charge of Jigawa State, Alhaji Usman Raji, expressed his believe that the new scheme had a lot of advantages for a retired civil servant.
According to Raji, one key advantage of the contributory scheme is that even if someone is dismissed from service, his employer cannot deny him the money that has accumulated in his name.
A staff of one of the Pension Fund Administrators in Bauchi State, who pleaded anonymity, told NAN that under the contributory arrangement, a retiree ought to receive his entitlements within 90 days after retirement.
He said that 50 per cent of the lump sum was to be given to those above 60 years and 25 per cent to those who retired below 60 years.
According to him, the remaining money will be spread and paid as monthly pension entitlement.
He attributed the delay in the payment of the entitlements of retirees to failure on the part of government to contribute its share to enable the computation of the entitlements of beneficiaries.
Those who applaud the scheme have continued to charge pension administrators to ensure prompt payment of beneficiaries’ entitlements.
Some of the respondents also called on states yet to embrace the new pension scheme to do so to ease the suffering of retirees.
Yet others told NAN that retirees experienced hardships due to delays in the release of their entitlements after meritorious service.
A lawyer in Akwa Ibom State, Godwin Udofia, urged all state governments to key into the contributory pension scheme to reduce the plight of pensioners in the country.
Udofia, who spoke in an interview with NAN in Uyo, said retirees under the new scheme now get their money without passing through unnecessary stress, while the old pension scheme was characterised by “irregular payment and unending verification”.
He said: “I will want all the state governments to embrace the new contributory pension scheme because it makes payment of pension easy and stress free.
“In Akwa Ibom, payment of gratuity to local government retirees have become very irregular but the contributory pension will address the ugly situation.”
Udofia said that pension fund managers should make the first payment substantial enough so that retirees would be able to invest well.
In his contribution, the Akwa Ibom State Chairman of the NLC, Comrade Etim Ukpong, also applauded the scheme.
Aniefiok Udonquak, a Federal Government pensioner, appealed to government to always effect regular increment of retirees’ pension to enable them to cope with economic challenges.
Udonquak said: “Government should effect increment of pensioners entitlements as it increases the salaries of workers to improve their living standard.”
According to a pension fund manager in Rivers State, the contributory scheme has corrected the problem created by the old pension scheme.
She said the embezzlement of about N2 billion pension fund in 2014 did not occur under the new scheme.
She said that it was not possible to embezzle pension fund under the new dispensation as the activities and operations of PFAs were regulated by the Pension Commission.
She said: “PENCOM is to PFA what Central Bank of Nigeria is to commercial banks in the country.”
The manager advised employees to enrol into the scheme to enable them to save part of their salaries to be able to start a business on retirement.
Meanwhile, a cross section of workers who retired from the Public Service in Cross River State since 2012 said they had yet to be paid their entitlements.
One of them, Ferdinand Oju, told NAN that since his retirement from service in 2013, his gratuity had not been paid and that there was no reasonable explanation from the state government.
Oju further said that the non-payment of his gratuity had brought suffering to him and his family as he was finding it difficult to meet his daily obligations with the meagre monthly pension that he received.
He said: “I have seven children; three had graduated from higher institutions but four are still in school.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to feed them and pay their school fees.
“Everybody knows things are hard and without active engagement, it is difficult to survive in Nigeria now.”
Also speaking, Hossana Ukonu, who retired in 2014, said the non-payment of his gratuity had affected his plan for life after retirement.
Upon said: As it is now, one is just managing because the monthly pension is nothing to write home about.
“Recently, the state governor declared that he would continue to pay pensions but the issue of gratuities would remain pending until the state’s economy improves.
“I do not know where this leaves us pensioners.”
However, Godwin Ayande, the state Chairman of the National Union of Local Government Employees, said the case of local government retirees was different.
According to Ayande, local government retirees are being paid in a selective format.
He said that in spite of the workability of the payment format, nothing had been paid in the last five months.
He said: “Each month some retirees are selected and paid in part and that has been working well, although nothing has been paid since the last five months.”
NAN reports that state and local government workers in Cross River State have yet to enrol in the contributory pension scheme.