Police retirees, delayed pension payments and matters arising
Police retirees under the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) supervised by the National Pension Commission (PenCom) are groaning over the undue delay in the remittance of their accrued rights, which they say have been in arrears over one year.
This is as the retirees are complaining of low monthly pensions paid to them by the Nigeria Police Force Pensions Limited (The Police Pension Fund Administrator).
These retirees, under the aegis of the Association of Retired Police Officers (under the CPS) rue their woes and the attendant hardship they, with their families are facing, no thanks to their meagre pension.
They lament 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 citizens, they deserve better treatment in their retirement life.
The situation is not only undermining the core objective of the CPS, but also denting the image of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs). It, however, appears that 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 per cent public service and 80 percent private sector clients.
A Police constable earns between N42,000 and N47,000 after deductions of tax, accommodation allowance and others; a Sergeant’s pay is about N50,000 while a Police Inspector now earns at least N60,000 monthly. In the Senior Police Officers (SPO) cadre, an Assistant Superintendent of Police earns a little above 80,000 after deductions have been made.
This is greatly affecting pension benefits paid to the officers at retirement because pension is a function of salary, hence the benefit at retirement are also low. At retirement, a Police Inspector earns just about N20,000, while those in the Superintendent cadre earn about N30,000.
The recent reversal of the template used to calculate pension payments by PenCom has further caused some negative issues with the system, with the Police retirees agitating against NPF Pensions Limited that they want to exit the CPS entirely. They believe that NPF Pensions is tampering or fraudulently dealing 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 rights.
While waiting for accrued rights, PenCom should allow PFAs to pay retirees from the balance in their RSAs. When retirees are not paid because their employer, the Federal Government has not paid accrued rights, does PenCom consider that they have responsibilities to their children and other members of their family? Should the retiree die waiting? Does PenCom remember that they were bread winners of their homes before retirement and now you stop their 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.
It is pertinent to state that from my research, 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 officers have every right to agitate for a better deal at retirement and these agitations must be immediately addressed by PenCom, the Inspector-General of Police and NPF Pensions Limited. They need to save the nation from the looming outrage of retired police officers and men.
It is worthy of note that a police officer at the Force Headquarters (who pleaded to remain anonymous) 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 (MoU) 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.
Based on these agreements and resolutions, NPF Pensions was able to convince their retirees to give the Federal Government time to look at the issues. But up till date, nothing seems to have been done with regard to the MOU. Following the tripartite committee MOU, two IGPs have written President Muhammadu Buhari- former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris wrote him and the current IGP, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, also did.
Unless the retirees are given a gratuity separate from pension, they will continue to complain. It is painful to them that after risking their lives to protect the country, a ministry worker will earn better than them at retirement just as he has always earned more while in service.
The Federal Government should immediately pay accrued rights to relieve the retirees even if it’s not much. President Buhari should give them what is theirs.
They should also be paid gratuity and unless this is done, the police will remain cheated and will feel cheated. They will continue to agitate which might lead to worse consequences.
• Ismail is a concerned industry stakeholder in Lagos