Still No Contributory Pension Scheme For Plateau Workers

Pension-sharing-order-adviceWorkers in Plateau State may not be subscribing to the contributory pension scheme any time soon, as they demand that arrears owed them under the old scheme, which runs into billions of naira, must be cleared.

They argue, among other things, that the scheme was stalled in the early stages of implementation because the state lacked a comprehensive data of employees.

However, they say there are efforts to reconcile the shortcomings, as a bill has been sent to the State Assembly to hasten the process of keying into the new scheme.

A civil servant said earlier efforts to subscribe to the contributory pension scheme hit a brick wall because previous administrations tampered with workers’ pension.

Said he: “It is obvious previous administrations must have tampered with workers’ pension. That is why payment of pensions to state retirees is done in arrears. There is a huge backlog of arrears, which means government needs a lot of money to pay the private pension managers. Apart from the Federal Government, many states, including Plateau, cannot join the scheme.”

For the Secretary of Association of Senior Civil Servants (ASCS), Plateau State Branch, Comrade Ade Akibo, the new scheme presented new challenges, as during Obasanjo’s regime, the country operated a scheme tagged “defined benefit of pension,” which was defined by the number of years a worker put into service before disengagement.

“With the abuse by past administration of the old pension reforms, there was a need for employees to adopt the new system. The reforms were borrowed from Norway. It stipulates that instead of the employer paying everything holistically till a retiree dies, there would be combined contributions by the employer and employee. When this was done, it was only federal civil servants that keyed into it. The state governments were dilly-dallying.

“When we discovered that the wage bill in Plateau was very high, we told the then governor of the state that there was need to key into this new pension reform to avoid wastages and racketeering in the system because some dead people were getting arrears in the old regime.

“But with this new system, benefits are paid from what is contributed. When we sold the idea to the then state government, it was not in touch with the reality on ground because at that time, we didn’t have the number of civil servants that were disengaged,” he said.

He explained that retirees have not even been captured in the last 10 years because of paucity of funds.

On the level of progress on domesticating the law, he said a privately sponsored bill on the reforms is at the State House of Assembly for consideration.

Akiko said the bill has passed through the second reading without the contribution of workers, which was unfortunate.

“You cannot shave our heads in our absence,” he said. “We are supposed to contribute to it. We are supposed to have a roundtable conference. It is not the House of Assembly that should decide for us. You cannot sit in the comfort of your House of Assembly and decide what we are going to be paid.”

He said the situation presents a gloomy future for workers. “A time will come, when state governments will not be able to pay, if they refuse to key into the reforms, as the wage bill in Plateau now is rising.”

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