Edo Yet To Begin Contributory Pension, As Pensioners Kick Over Unpaid Increments
THOUGH Edo State government is set to roll-off the contributory pension scheme, pensioners in the payroll of the state are already complaining of the non-implementation of various increases to their monthly pensions, as approved by the Federal Government. They are also kicking against delay in payment of gratuities of some recent retirees.
Few months ago, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) threatened a strike when it said the state government, through the advice of the Head of Service, had commenced deductions of salaries of workers for the scheme without the workers picking their preferred pension managers or even knowing where the deductions would be paid into.
This drew the ire of organised labour, which staged a peaceful protest, calling on Governor Adams Oshiomhole to sack the state’s Head of Service, Jerry Obazele, for gross incompetence. The protesting workers alleged that the HOS was the only signatory to the proposed contributory pension scheme.
“Obazele’s impunity and the manner he went ahead to deduct the pension contribution of 8 per cent from the workers’ salaries, without recourse to our earlier appeal and advice to stay action on the matter, until the proper frame work for implementation is put in place.”
The workers resisted the move, because they were not in the know of who the managers were going to be, as they were just picked by the authorities contrary to the practice of workers picking their preferred managers from a pool of registered pension managers.
However, speaking with The Guardian on Friday, the state chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Emmanuel Ademokun, said the issues have been resolved and the pension scheme will kick off soon.
“Actually, after that protests, a committee was set up that involved Labour, the Secretary to the State Government was actually the chairman, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Establishment was secretary, myself, TUC and JNC as members. We resolved to key into the system, subject to the approval of the governor and we have actually agreed that the contributory pension should start from this month, so, if the governor approves it, we will begin this month. There were other issues raised over pension administrators; the managers of the fund for both the state and local council. What they did before was that they just started deducting workers salary without recourse to giving the money to any PFA, but now, we want a 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 go according to plan. The state government has agreed to set up the bureau, and composition of members already sent to the House of Assembly. Once they return from their break, they will consider those names and probably approve the amendments.
“We have picked 14 PFAs for Edo State out of existing 21, and we have allocated to them areas of operation, the workers have been sensitised about them, so, the PFAs know the areas they will work with. The first law was 7.5 per cent contribution each from the state and the workers, but the new law now prescribes 10 per cent for the employer and 8 per cent by the worker as contribution. If the House approves the amendments, it will commence immediately.”
On the agitation by pensioners over unpaid allowances and arrears, Ademokun said the state has been cash strapped, but believes that once finances improve, the state government would do the needful for the pensioners.
It would be recalled that pensioners, under the aegis Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), Edo State Council, early this year, wrote the state governor, where they complained that the government had abandoned them.
A letter then signed by its then chairman and Secretary, Comrade I. Omoragbon and Comrade L. Salami made some demands to the state government and even threatened a strike action “Essentially, the union has been earnestly appealing to you to address the nauseating and pitiable plight of the civil pensioners in the state. it is regrettable that you have neither acknowledged the receipt of any of the letters nor addressed the issues raised.”
The letter said the state government promised in December 2013 to commence payment of six per cent and 15 per cent pension increases with effect from April 2014, but as at February 2015, nothing has been done.
They also demanded for the harmonisation of pension, as was the case with retired judges.