…As PFA provides tips to financial challenges in retirment
Stories by Bimbola Oyesola 08033246177
They came in their thousands from all the local government councils of Lagos State. They were not only public workers but also included those in the private sector. It was the annual enlightenment programme organised by Trustfund Pension Plc and this particular one was for pensioners and those scheduled to retire in the next six months.
Trustfund held the forum recently to enlightened retirees and put their minds at rest on the future of their retirement savings account (RSA).
Investigations showed that retirees now living below their normal take-home are more exposed to effects of economic challenges and, in an effort to seek solutions to the challenges, they often fall prey to new trends by fraudsters, if they could withdraw all their pension from their Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) and give to them to manage.
The misinformation often takes different forms. A retiree at the forum, Adetona Emilola, narrated how he was informed that, soon, there would be no cash left in his RSA, eight years after retirement, thereby urging him to quickly withdraw his fund from his PFA.
Emilola and others who were concerned that the benefit they received after 35 years of active service that earned them several accolades, however were at the Trustfund forum last week at the Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja, to seek clarification.
The Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, venue for this year’s one-day verification exercise and seminar for intending retirees, drawn from the public and private sectors and pensioners in the state, was filled with participants seeking solutions to what posed danger to their benefits and possibly learn of threats to their RSA.
A pensioner, Mr. Evans Ndiok, however, noted that the Contributory pension Scheme (CPS), was better because it prevented retirees from queuing monthly to receive their benefits, but the state of the economy has made it difficult to live on monthly pension from the RSA.
Ndiok wanted to know if retirees could benefit from the new minimum wage after completion of the ongoing negotiations between government and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).
Another retiree, Adewale Ogunsola, lamented that his employers, before his retirement allegedly failed to remit total deduction after several years.
Concerned by the challenges that could be confronting the retirees, Trustfund Pensions officials stressed that they decided to embark on the forum annually to ensure that the pensioners use the benefits judiciously because they have retired.
Addressing the participants, regional manager for the company, Mr. Obiora Ozoekwem, noted that the forum was to ensure retirees do not fall prey to any financial system.
The customer relations manager of the pension firm, John Opara, while responding to some of the pensioners’ complaints, said: “We believe that it is important we have close contact with the retirees because we are dealing with humans and not robots. We still have to engage them often.
“We also use the forum to inform them of trends in the industry. There are several misinformation and misconceptions in the society. It is through this forum that we dissuade the misconceptions.”
On minimum wages, he emphasised that, under the scheme, retirees are not entitled to increase in minimum wage nor increase in accrued benefits because they have exited service.
According to him, PFAs cannot increase the fund that had been contributed before the owner retires from active service. Even if the minimum wage is increased; they cannot benefit from it.
“For those who retired under this scheme, the government pays the accrued rights and the contribution. That is why we call it consolidated, because it is subjected to programme withdrawal where the customer gets certain percentage from the fund and the rest is shared as monthly pension,” he said.
On need for PFAs to intervene in pension fund remittance, Opara explained how the PFA could intervene on behalf of employees as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act.
“There are three levels of intervention that any PFA could embark upon. One is statutory demand letter, by PFAs to employers.
“This letter is often written seven days after payment of salaries to remind the employer on need to remit their contribution to the PFA after deducting from their employees.
“Where the employer is not complying, we write to employers and zonal offices of PENCOM; alerting the pension commission that the employer wasn’t ready to pay his share into his employees’ account.
“When the issue continues unabated, the final stage occurs, where we generate the consolidated fund and send a copy to PENCOM office.
“The commission will use its recovery agents to visit the company and check if they are complying. After the visit, if the PFA alerts correspond, PENCOM fines the firm and they pay their contribution.
“And that is why we have often advised our customers to visit any of our offices and appeal that they generate their retirement savings account statement. That will allow them engage in self audit,” he said.