Police retirees under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), supervised by the National Pension Commission (PenCom) are now lamenting over undue delay in the remittance of their accrued benefits said to have accumulated for over one year. This was as the retirees also complained of low monthly pensions paid to them by the Nigeria Police Force Pensions Limited (The Police Pension Fund Administrator).
The retirees, under the aegis of Association of Retired Police Officers (under the Contributory Pension Scheme) rue their woes and the attendant hardship they, and their families are facing, no thanks to their meagre pension.
They lamented that after 35 years of meritorious services to their fatherland, and having put their lives on the line for the safety of the country and its citizens, they deserved better treatment in retirement.According to them, their percieved ill-treatment is not only undermining the core objective of the Contributory Pension Scheme but also denting the image of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs).
From the various compliants from stakeholders, it is however becoming obvious that the Police PFA, NPF Pensions Limited is the worst hit because all its clients are Police, unlike other PFAs that have a mix of probably 20 percent public service and 80 percent private sector clients.
It is also appears that the recent reversal of the template used in calculate pension payments by the regulator, the National Pension Commission (PenCom), has further raised some negative issues with the system, with Police retirees agitating against NPF Pensions Limited and insisting they want to exit the CPS entirely.
They argued that NPF Pensions is tampering with their pension payment.
It is absurd to say the least that PenCom has refused to approve payment to the retirees from the available balances in their Retirement Savings (RSA) Account pending when the Federal Government will pay their accrued benefits.
Part of the agitations of the retirees is that PFAs are not allowed to pay them from their contributions that have accrued since they joined the CPS. They have every right to ask for this because the Federal Government is unable to fulfil its obligation in the first place.
While waiting for accrued rights, PenCom should allow PFAs to pay retirees from the balance in their RSAs. By the time a retiree is paid for a year, the accrued rights are paid and then the PFA can regularise and pay the balance. The question of exhausting the balance in one year as argued by PenCom is not tenable because a retiree cannot exhaust his or her balance.
There is always return or interest from investment of the pension fund made on behalf of the retiree by his or her PFA. When the retirees are not paid because their employer, the Federal Government have not paid accrued rights, does PenCom consider that they have responsibilities to their children and other members of their family? ere bread winners of their homes before retirement and now you stop them payment for more than one year from earning a living because you have not received their accrued right.
How are they going to survive? Even if it is N1 million that they were able to contribute into their account, allow the PFA to spread it, so that there will not be sudden cut of income to zero. If an officer was earning a N100,000, it is better he or she earns N10,000 per month as pension than nothing.
The Pension Reform Act did not state that a PFA should wait and consolidate accrued rights before a retiree can be paid. It is being imposed by PenCom based on administrative convenience on their own part. It means they have to give approval twice and for the Commission, this is additional work.
The President and PenCom should remember that these people have been armed people all their lives. You have taken away their career, you have taken away the salary, can’t the human mind think of criminality to survive? The President should remember that we have trained them in arms and weapon handling. This is a significant security challenge to the country because a hungry man can do anything to survive. Allowing them to retire without paying them any pension benefit nor placing them on low monthly pension is a disaster waiting to happen.
The Police PFA is currently being associated with the fraudulent activities at the defunct Police Pension Office, carried out by Police Pension Reform Task Team, led by Abdulrasheed Maina. The bad legacy left behind by the ‘Mainagate’ before the establishment of NPF Pensions is making it difficult for trust to be gained by those currently running the administration of the Police PFA under the CPS.
Suffice it to state that NPF Pensions, in collaboration with the Police authorities in its wisdom set up a N500 million Retiree Support Fund in 2017 to cater for the retirees while awaiting their legitimate pension. It was created to support the retirees such that when pension has not been paid due to unpaid accrued rights, NPF Pensions give them some money as a relief pending payment of their pension.
Since pension has not been paid for more than a year, the Retiree Support Fund is being misconstrued by the retirees as their legitimate payment. They think that perhaps somebody is keeping their money and giving them just hand out. Even police officers do not believe that the CPS is a different scheme.
A police officer at the Force Headquarters (who pleaded anonymity) disclosed that a tripartite committee made up of the Acting Director-General, Mrs Aisha Dahir-Umar and her team; a police team headed by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police and NPF Pensions team tried to address the agitations by police retirees to exit the CPS two years ago. They met to brainstorm on the low pension payment and PenCom agreed to address the smaller balances of the retirees.
They resolved in a Memorandum of Understanding that the Federal Government should approve a special gratuity for the police so that when they retire, the lump sum of their total pension will not be taken from their account and the balance will be channelled as monthly programmed withdrawal, which will make their pay out more quantitative. They agreed that the Federal Government should consider the gratuity in form of 300 per cent of a police salary which is the approximate that used to be the gratuity.
The crux of their argument was that if permanent secretaries in the federal service are treated differently and allowed to retire with their salary, why not allow a police officer that is on the rank of AIG, equivalent to a permanent secretary be allowed to retire with his or her salary.