Pencom regulations stall payment of pension to ex-NSITF workers

THE Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) has blamed its inability to pay its in-house pensioners the 33% increment on the regulations guiding the operations of the National Pension Commission (Pencom).

The NSITF pensioners are demanding payment of 57 months pension arrears resulting from the July 2012 pronouncement of government.

They alleged NSITF had failed to comply with the Federal Government directive and that the provision of the constitution that states that pension must be increased whenever workers’ salaries are increased should be complied with.

In its reaction, NSITF said it does not owe its ex-workers explaining that NSITF does not have the powers to pay pension and Trustfund can only pay pension with Pencom approval.
The Deputy General Manager, Corporate Affairs of NSITF, Aliu Zubairu, said the pronouncement of a 53.37% increment by the Federal Government in July 2012 fueled agitation for pension increment.
He hinted that the only increment that has been taken place is the 33% increment for the military and that no government agency or parastatal has implemented the 53.37%.

His explanation: “It was in September 2014 that the relevant government agency released a circular approving the increases of the emoluments of public service pensioners by 33%. So the issue of NSITF not paying approved increases since 2010 was mischievous. The increase was granted in September 2014 and NSITF could not have owed money not approved by the government.”

NSITF also said that N200million was paid to Trustfund, which manages the Fund’s legacy pension to effect the payment of the increases effective June 2014. It noted that Trustfund’s application to Pencom for approval as required by law was declined hence the inability to pay. 
It was gathered that at a meeting between the parties, Pencom explained to them that it could not have approved the payment of the 53.37% increases at the time approval was sought because the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) had not released any circular authorizing such.

It was after this meeting that NSIWC Circular no SWC/S04/S.542/26/ of 26th September 2014, which conveyed approval to implement only 33% of the increases to pensions, was brought to the attention of Pencom and that implementation will begin in February 2015.

“Pencom later reneged on its agreement to approve these increases as agreed. When contacted, it insisted that NSITF should pay N50million into its Fund under management with Trustfund for it to finally approve the increases. This was quickly done by the Fund. A team from NSITF went to Pencom with evidence of this payment and were reassured that now the increases will be effected from the February pay out to the pensioners. Obviously Pencom still withholds its approval for this money to be paid to the pensioners. Other means even those suggested by the Abuja branch of the pensioners is being explored before this threat to picket emanated,” it explained.
While assuring that it has not defaulted in the payment of pension to its ex-workers, NSITF noted that what the pensioners are agitating for increment on their pension, which has not been approved by Pencom.
It added that all its ex-workers are paid their pension on the 20th of every month even before workers are paid their salaries.

It added: “We are committed to effect the 33% increases. Our actions reflect this commitment. Our several meetings with all stakeholders including Pencom reflect this. However, we cannot operate outside the law. We invite all concerned to join the Fund in finding a lasting solution to the issue rather engage in actions that could distract the Fund from concentrating on the delivery of its mandate.”

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