By Adewole Kehinde
“N2.1Bn Pension Scam: Maina to Spend 8 Years in Prison.” A headline like this is one of the many reasons the Police Pension Board Bill should be signed urgently.
Policemen who risk their lives for 35 years shouldn’t die waiting for their pension. An individual who can’t pass through one-quarter of what Nigerian police personnel is passing through will sit in the comfort of his house and embezzle a whopping N2.1 billion!
According to the Nigerian civil service rules, the statutory age of retirement for civil servants is 35 years of service or 60 years of age, whichever comes first.
It may be instructive to note that the objectives of the Pension Reform Act 2014 include ensuring that every person who worked in the public service of the federation, federal capital territory, states, local government, or the private sector receives his retirement benefits as and when due and assisting improvident individuals by ensuring that they save to cater for their livelihood during old age.
The irony is that the government has, however, proven to be so improvident that it becomes pertinent to question the prudence in its continual management of what should guarantee the future livelihood of average Nigerians who have given most of their lives in service of the state.
The scale of corruption in Nigeria’s pension system, both at the federal and state levels, is staggering.
It is characterized by huge embezzlement by those assigned to run the scheme as well as elected and appointed political officeholders.
The suffering of pensioners in Nigeria took a turn for the worst since the return of civil rule in 1999, and successive administrations, including the current one, have been paying lip service to the whole ugliness. For pensioners and their dependents over these years, it does not just rain; it also pours.
This continuous maltreatment of a group of people who had devoted much of their active years to serving their country is not only illegal but immoral. Nigeria appears to be the only country in the world with such an unenviable record.
Today, in Nigeria, the thought of retirement is akin to hellfire because potential pensioners fear what awaits them: either they do not get their pension while alive or are declared dead while alive by the government, all in a bid to deny them their entitlement. This is the fate of Nigerian pensioners.
A pension fund is not a gratuitous payment from the government to its retired workforce. As rightly held by the Court of Appeal in a decided case, it is a constitutional right guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which does not depend on the discretion of the government.
Some benefits of the Police Pension Board
Adopting effective and efficient coordinating mechanisms and innovative strategies in the processing and payment of terminal benefits to retirees via:
- Prompt and adequate payment of pensions and gratuities to the pensioners/retirees.
- Receive funds and make payments to pensioners.
- Ensure adequate record-keeping and comprehensive pension records.
- Rending of a periodic report on the status of the board on contributions and remittances
- Capacity building for the pension desk officers, retiring officers, and retirees.
The Police Pension Board will also ensure service delivery, an enabling environment, and partnerships with stakeholders.
The Police Pension Board will reposition the police away from poor service delivery as a result of the rigidity of the old order.
The Police Pension Board will also ensure that serving police personnel are better equipped to cope with the modern trend in policing and block all the leakages, waste, and loopholes.
The Police Pension Board will reach enviable heights as the NPF Pension Managers ensure that retirees are paid their retirement benefits as and when due. They will cease from the practice of over-delaying pensioners’ benefits experienced under the Contributory Pension Scheme.
The Police Pension Board will ensure the transparent and efficient management of police pension funds.
The Police Pension Board will encourage police personnel and retirees to invest in assets and financial instruments so that, at retirement, they can earn additional income from these assets and financial instruments to supplement their pension income. This will help them surmount the frustration orchestrated by poor pension fund administration.
Similarly, retirees and police personnel will be encouraged to embark on continuous education and skills acquisition training as a way of preparing for life after retirement.
The Police Pension Board will be automated to address issues of “ghost” beneficiaries and put stiffer measures in place to deter offenders.
Where payments are not received when due, it becomes an infringement, and someone will be held accountable for this.
Retired police personnel deserve more than what is currently being offered by the system.
The signing of the Police Pension Board bill by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will ensure the principles of sustainability, safety, and security of benefits, transparency, accountability, equity, flexibility, inclusivity, uniformity, and practicability of the Police Pension.
Adewole Kehinde is the publisher of Swift Reporters, based in Abuja, and can be reached at 08166240846. E-mail: email@example.com