Legal Framework Stalls Contributory Pension Scheme In Edo

Oshiomhole

Oshiomhole

Controversy has trailed the implementation of the contributory pension scheme in Edo State, which was supposed to have begun last December.

The plan, it was gathered, is still in its embryonic stage largely due to non-availability of appropriate legal framework.

Few months ago, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) threatened a strike action on grounds that the state government, through the advice of the Head of Office (HOS), started deductions from workers’ salaries for the scheme. They said the deductions were made without the state employees picking preferred pension managers.

A peaceful protest was staged, with the protesters calling on Governor Adams Oshiomhole to sack the then state Head of Service, Jerry Obazele, for gross incompetence. Alleging that the HOS was the only signatory to the contributory pension scheme, they said his continued stay in office would further hamper the cordial relationship between the workers and the Governor.

Obazele was subsequently retired, because of alleged sharp practices, especially in handling pensioners’ gratuity payment. However, in an interview with The Guardian, State chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Emmanuel Ademokun, said the workers were ready for the contributory scheme and were only waiting for the state government to provide the needed legal backing.

Said he: “We have agreed to key into the scheme. We are waiting for government to amend the relevant law. Workers are ready, but the state government has to set up a Bureau that will manage the funds. Workers have already agreed on the Pension Fund Administrator (PFA), so we are waiting for the governor to play his part.”

He said workers resisted the earlier move, because they didn’t know who the managers would be, as the authorities picked the one appointed at the time contrary to the practice of workers picking their preferred managers from a pool of registered pension managers.

“After that episode, a committee was set up, which also involved Labour. The Secretary to the State Government was the chairman of that committee, while the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Establishment was the secretary. The NLC, Trade Union Congress and Joint Negotiation Council (JNC) were all members. They resolved that the workers would key into the system subject to the governor’s approval. They actually agreed that the contributory pension should start from December.

“What government did initially that angered workers was that they started deducting workers’ salary without recourse to any PFA. But now we want the Bureau to be in place so that any money deducted will go to the PFA. The Bureau is to manage the funds to ensure that all goes according to plan. The state government has agreed to set up the Bureau. The names of the Bureau members have already been sent to the House of Assembly. Once the lawmakers return from their break, they will consider those names and probably approve the amendments. So, Edo will soon key into the scheme, if not this month, then next month. Everything is in top gear to commence the scheme in Edo, 
” he said.

The Guardian gathered that 14 PFAs were picked for Edo State out of existing 21, and workers have not only been duly allocated to them, but sensitised on how they operate.

Ademokun said the first law prescribed 7.5 per cent contribution apiece from the state and the workers, but the new law stipulates 10 per cent for the employer and eight per cent for the worker. “Once the House ratifies the amendments, the scheme would commence in the state immediately,” he said.

Civil servants, who spoke on condition of anonymity, were unanimous in their acceptance of the scheme.

According to one of them, “It is a relief for workers. You see pensioners dying, while struggling to get the pay due them after serving the state.”

There have been protests by pensioners, particularly those at the local council areas, over the stress associated with the old scheme, which resulted in the death of one of their colleagues.

Last week, a 75-year-old pensioner, Sunday Oboite, slumped and died during a screening exercise at the Oredo local council secretariat in Benin.

It was learnt that Oboite died at the secretariat reception, while waiting for a screening exercise after which the pensioners would be paid their 10-month pension arrears.



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